As millions of immigrants and supporters protested around the country in support of immigrant rights on May 1st, the Bush White House ignored the renewed interest in celebrating May 1st—May Day—as an international day of solidarity for labor and instead celebrated it as both the traditional “Law Day” and “Loyalty Day.” Both “Loyalty Day” and “Law Day” grew out of opposition to May Day, which the ruling class and the government sought to have celebrated instead of May Day, which was historically seen as simply a “Communist” holiday. While May Day had its origins in the United States as part of the struggle for the 8-hour day in the late 1800s, the day has gone largely uncelebrated in the United States due to an intensive campaign to associate the holiday with the Haymarket bombing and a violent form of anarchism that was deemed responsible for the bombing.
This year, President George W. Bush, faced with the prospect of immigrant rights marchers reclaiming the holiday, issued two separate proclamations designating the day “Loyalty Day” and “Law Day.” In his “Loyalty Day” proclamation, President Bush urged people to “celebrate the gift of liberty and [to] remember our own obligation to this great Nation” while calling on people to rally around the flag and to support the Iraq War:
The dedication and selflessness of America’s soldiers and their families inspire us all. Some of our Nation’s finest men and women have given their lives in freedom’s cause. By their sacrifices they have given us a legacy of liberty and brought honor to the uniform, our flag, and our country. The American people are grateful to the brave men and women of our military for their service and we will always stand behind them.
Bush’s “Law Day” Proclamation was similar, with Bush touting his assessment that “our system of separation of powers has safeguarded our liberties and helped ensure that we remain a government of laws” while also setting aside the 2006 holiday to “honor the wisdom of the separation of powers that the Framers of our Constitution established for the Federal Government.”
Of course, both of these proclamations are an affront to immigrants who are organizing to achieve the type of freedom that Bush claims exists for all living in the United States, and as typically the case in popular representations of history and the mythology of the United States’ system of government, the equality and freedom outlined by Bush in these two proclamations has little connection to reality and instead serves an important ideological function of limiting solidarity between workers, both nationally and internationally. Instead of working to improve their conditions, oppressed sections of the population are instead encouraged to display the United States flag and be thankful that they live in such a “great Nation.”