I’m old, I’m tired of fighting. I’ve become cynical.
I used to put up rousing pro labor music on Labor Day.
I’m nearly 70 years old. I was born in the late 1940s and grew up in the 1950s, an era of optimism. Despite what many would have young people believe about that era, it was a good time.
World War II was over, Eisenhower was President. The Democrats ran Adlai Stevenson, a total dweeb with the personality of a slug against him, twice. I wasn’t supposed to like Ike because my parents were staunch Democrats.
Looking back on things I think Eisenhower was the second greatest Republican President ever. He managed the US during one of the most dangerous periods in history and helped keep the nukes from flying. He presided over rise of the civil rights movement. Built the interstate highway system that drew the country together. He saw to it that the promises of home loans and the GI Bill for vets saw the rise of the educated middle class in America.
Yeah I remember a lot of things about those days.
I remember how we had a parade on Memorial Day to honor those who gave their lives fighting to keep this country whole and defend ideals we shared. Almost all the stores were closed except for one or two pharmacies.
I remember the Fourth of July when we had parades and a big gathering at a place called Fireman’s Field that was a day of partying, speeches, bands and entertainment capped of with fireworks.
We had a parade on Labor Day too, all the stores and the paper mill closed that day too.
November 11 was Armistice Day, later as World War I faded from memory it became Veteran’s Day. We had assemblies in school where veterans spoke of the wars and their service.
I remember Thanksgiving, a day of showing gratitude, families gathering for a big feast. As I grew older there was usually the Army-Navy Football game on the TV.
I remember Christmas and New Years as the Holidays. People had their own religions and celebrated them differently including the days on which presents were exchanged.
Somewhere along the line something was lost.
That rising middle class became separated from the working class. The children of the generation of vets who were the first generation to go to college became the white collar elite. They became the privileged and started looking down on the people who built the buildings and roads, drove taxis, waited on them in restaurants.
With that condescension, perhaps even contempt towards working people came an anti-union rhetoric and stagnant or even falling wages.
In the early 1960s I read a book by Vance Packard, The Status Seekers: An Exploration of Class Behavior in America and the Hidden Barriers That Affect You, Your Community, Your Future. I wish I could remember it better as Vance Packard was a real sociological Cassandra warning of trends that threatened society and the well being of humanity.
I know I grew up questioning the rampant consumerism and status seeking of the privileged. I wanted adventure more than the rewards of conformity. I liked the bohemian life more than the status seeking games.
After the 1960s they blamed the hippies for every modern social problem, hippies became the universal scapegoat.
Some where along the line we stopped having parades on the Fourth of July and the LGBT rights parades celebrating the Stonewall Riot became the only parade most cities seemed to have.
Instead of parades and celebrations of important events and movements that affected the life of Americans we saw those days turned into orgies of consumption. Days featuring huge sales kicking off yet another season of marketing during which people are supposed to assert their individuality and status by their spending and consuming.
I’ve worked in Big Box Stores where Labor Day marks the start of the Christmas Marketing orgy, with Halloween tossed in as an extra must consume and spend money on event.
While I was wondering if this is a universal given I learned through a Facebook Friend that they still have a Labor Day Parade in one of the small Adirondack villages I grew up in. I learned there is/are small towns and cities that still hold Fourth of July parades and events.
We have a small business and know people who restore cars and houses, make real wood cabinets and the like. We celebrate those who open and run their own restaurants unbeholding to and not following the rules of some corporate board of directors.
Some of us are looking at less being more with smaller homes, less status and more time even if only to loll around reading or watching TV.
We’ve been polarized as a nation and people by folks who are experts at the art of selling and propaganda. After all if we are at each others throats over bullshit issues we might never notice how empty our lives as consumers and worker drones really are.
We might never ask how we go to a place where politician seem selected by big money, bought and paid for not to govern in the interests of the people but in the interests of the rich elites.
September 8, 2015 at 9:26 pm
I live in a town of about 25,000 that is a suburb of a big city… We still have July 4th parades and even have a Main street that still has a a reasonable # non-chain stores and a lot of town sponsored activities… In some ways like a small town but still in a major metropolitan area. Not a bad place to live.
I’m one of the boomers whose parents were and stayed working class, but who became a professional ( but not sure white collar applies – in my profession one does not sit at a desk and one has to work with their hands as well as their heads)…
But having grown up not far from the bottom and knowing how hard it can be to advance where starting from there, I hope I don’t look down at non professionals… I don’t THINK I do…
The one thing the great recession taught a lot of people was how easy it can be to loss one’s societal position… hopefully that has tempered many with such attitudes…
Yes commercialism has caused us to lose a lot of a society that help hold us together… and we see it in so many ways… but all is not lost. Many still carry the spark… and tough times seem to ground a lot of people and make them remember what is most important…
I would not be surprised if in the next 10 years or so unions start rising again in response to the extreme income inequity and make labor valued more once again…
Maybe I’m dreaming… but I’m 60 now myself and a lot has changed in my lifetime… It’s time for the pendulum to start swing the other way… and I think it may be beginng to happen.