President Trump has declared today, May 1, Loyalty Day, a day also dedicated to international workers’ rights, in what sounds on first impact to be an Orwellian holiday dedicated to love of one’s country — with all the mandatory overtones one would expect, given the current divisive climate present in the United States.
May 1, the president declared, should be a day “for the reaffirmation of loyalty” to the United States; and that fealty to this nation — obedient citizens are encouraged to display the Stars and Stripes — should usurp any recognition in unison with some 80 or so other countries of the struggles faced by workers around the world.
For as frighteningly nationalistic as the name implies, Loyalty Day is not Trump’s brainchild.
In fact, once Loyalty Day garnered congressional approval in 1958, the oppressively patriotic holiday has been officially proclaimed by every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959 through Barack Obama — Trump just carried on its pretext “intended to replace”International Workers’ Day.
Interestingly, Loyalty Day’s history stretches back as far as 1921 — when the first Red Scare gripped the nation, and suspicions immigrants might not have America’s best interests at heart similarly compelled an upswell of patriotism and vehement xenophobia.
It was the second Red Scare, however, when the holiday truly came into its own. ReportsThe Nation:
“In the fifties, Loyalty Day parades replaced May Day parades. If you Google ‘Loyalty Day parade,’ you get a quarter of a million hits. Long Beach, California, claims to have ‘the longest consecutively running loyalty commemoration in the nation!’ (Exclamation point theirs.) The Veterans of Foreign Wars started theirs in 1950, nine years before Ike’s declaration. This year’s Loyalty Day parade in Long Beach will be the same as always: high school marching bands, vintage cars, riders on horses and floats, as well as the required military color guard. Also clowns.
“The first May Day proclamation made the Cold War context pretty clear: ‘Loyalty to the United States of America,’ Ike said, ‘is essential to the preservation of our freedoms in a world threatened by totalitarianism.’ That was the idea: ‘we’ represented freedom, and ‘they’ were ‘the enemies of freedom.’ Of course, in 1959 our ‘freedoms’ included segregation for blacks and blacklisting for reds, and our ‘Free World’ allies included dictators and tyrants like Chiang Kai-Shek in Formosa, Marcos in the Philippines, the Shah in Iran and whoever was running South Korea.”
Perhaps this particular Loyalty Day desperately needed Trump’s unusually vocal proclamation to engender any support, whatsoever — with ICE agents raiding the homes of workers who have done nothing untoward other than failing to yet obtain a legal permission slip to live in the U.S.; the so-called alt-right enjoining thousands to a thinly-disguised exclusivist, nationalist agenda; and the president promising but failing legions of supporters on nearly every item in a checklist of reforms championed on the campaign trail.
Loyalty — indeed, patriotism — as well as faith in this nation ever achieving a functional, representational government have dipped to lows concordant with the president’s record-setting, abysmal approval rating.
Unsavory programs veiled in the fear an outsider will somehow insidiously influence the very core of our American spirit are not easily swallowed by a populace weary of broken promises from a succession of presidents — Loyalty Day simply deflects from those failings while also usurping a holiday celebrating a traditionally oppressed class of citizens.
Rather than sharply veering away from the interests of the monied class, Trump continues stuffing appointed positions with the same — guaranteeing the bulk of voters from so-called flyover states, who figured a non-politician would not do politician things, will grasp it’s the position of president, and not who occupies the White House, that corrupts absolutely.
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Resultant disappointment should thus be diverted to displays of patriotism many of those flyover voters share ardently — after all, it appears war with any of multiple arch foes of the United States could explode any day. Loyalty, then, is a must, if the War Machine is to have support.
Presidents in years following the second Red Scare have not made a hullaballoo of Loyalty Day — its proclamation having gone largely unnoticed for decades, Trump’s attempt to reinvigorate American nationalism awkward primarily for deep clefts among the populace.
“The loyalty of our citizenry sends a clear signal to our allies and enemies that the United States will never yield from our way of life,” states Trump’s proclamation of Loyalty Day.
“Through the Department of Defense and other national security agencies, we are working to destroy ISIS, and to secure for all Americans the liberty terrorists seek to extinguish.
“We humbly thank our brave service members and veterans who have worn our Nation's uniform — from the American Revolution to the present day. Their unwavering loyalty and fidelity has made the world a safer, more free, and more just place. We are inspired by their pride in our country's principles, their devotion to our freedom, and their solemn pledge to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Many veterans, having experienced firsthand the uniquely American brand of imperialism wreaking havoc in otherwise sovereign nations, would disagree fundamentally on several points — not at all the least of which is the fanciful and false notion U.S. interventionism makes the world safer, much less free.
While social media — mostly unfamiliar with the longstanding usurpation of this workers’ holiday — exploded in consternation at Trump’s brazenly pompous move.
How can any leader expect to enjoin a nation to patriotism, much less loyalty, when a furious sequence of executive orders and proposals erase the basic American principles of freedom and equality for all who seek Lady Liberty’s once-embracing arms.
No, an outpouring of patriotism, particularly as officially decreed, will not placate a nation of the disaffected, already openly debating the finer points of insurrection — but it could be one of the final coffin nails sealing the soured sarcophagus of American primacy once and for all.
Trump, in particular, fails to comprehend a most basic principle of allegiance — it cannot be won by force of official declaration.
Rather, loyalty comes only when power is balanced and the people are satisfied their futures will not be in jeopardy to excruciatingly oppressive, rights-stripping law — forced nationalism and patriotism aside.
If the president truly wants to see Stars and Stripes on display, smiling faces, parades, and general celebration of America from coast to coast, he’ll have to forego his penchant for authoritarianism throughout the other 364 days each year.
Until then, the forced nationalism of Loyalty Day will inspire little more than a red, white, and blue-adorned eyeroll from a significant segment of the populace who know better than to bow down in allegiance to a nation that would as soon stomp that lowered head into the dirt.