Monday, September 07, 2009

595 Labor Day, A Second View

595 Labor Day, A Second View

Hold this notion: We didn't get to be the way we are by being the way we are.

As kids, we'd come into Manhattan to watch each year's Labor Day Parade, and it was endless.

Iron workers, steamfitters, building engineers, auto workers broadcast technicians, subway and railroad conductors and engineers and track liners and signal workers... cops, firefighters, restaurant workers, hospital workers, nurses, doctors, postal workers, air traffic controllers.

Also, carpenters, joiners, cement workers, garment workers, teachers, telephone operators and installers and linemen -- or line-people.

And... cabbies, painters, spacklers, paving drivers, hotel door men and women, truck drivers, warehouse workers, supermarket clerks and butchers. Anyone missing? Probably, but you get the picture. The people who run our trains, catch our crooks, teach us and our kids and so on.

They build things, they tear things down.

And many of them are gone now that we have decided that manual labor is something we farm out.

But make no mistake. Without American labor, you wouldn't have your roads or your cars or your bridges or your apartments or you houses or your offices.

Maybe you work in a job requiring a uniform, a suit, that costs a couple of grand or a hairstyle that costs you a couple of hundred a pop.

Nice work if you can get it -- especially these days. But it wasn't always that way. And it won't always BE that way if we don't realize, all of us, that we didn't get to be the way we are by being the way we are. The people who campaigned for and sometimes got hurt for or killed for the dignity of the American worker left us a legacy and a heritage.

And we can ask ourselves two things, here in the early years of the 21st century: what are we doing with that legacy and heritage, and what are we leaving for following generations. Have we fallen into the ugly trap of considering any work less than our own? If you think that's true, get under the sink or toilet and fix that leaky pipe yourself.

Or get together with the other members of your squash team or your soccer team and see if you can turn that energy into building a house or backing an 18 wheeler into a space that doesn't look big enough to walk through.

The Labor Day parade tends to be short and gray and soggy these days, in those years they actually hold them. It is symbol not of the vigor of American labor, but of our attitude toward it. We, America, became the only superpower still standing by recognizing and respecting the men and women who actually put it together.

We didn't get to be the way we are by being the way we are.

(Note: the concepts and some of the words in this posting have appeared in previous works, including the Tiny Tales stories of the late 1980s through the late 1990s and my "Thoughts On" feature for Bloomberg Radio in the early and late middle 2000s.)

Shrapnel:

--Here's an idea for out of work grant writers. Do a study on which people always start their tooth brushing routine with the same tooth and which don't. Then figure out that it doesn't make any difference.

--It's getting to the point that if Obama so much as sneezes there will be an uprising of bashers who will tell you that sneezing is socialism because it spreads germs. The guy could announce world peace and the cure for cancer and they'd still slam him. The news coverage of all this could lead a stranger to believe we've become a nation dominated by haters... and would they be wrong?

--What went wrong? The Jets actually won a football game the other day. But don't worry, it was only pre-season and the team has lots of time to get back to normal.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

No comments: