It’s May Day. Maybe I know that because I majored in history or maybe it’s because I was a geeky kid who remembers the last days of the Red menace pretty clearly. In either case, May 1st use to be a big deal. Unionists, hippies, malcontents, communists, and leftists of every stripe flocked to it once upon a time. Maybe they still do and we just don’t see many news reports about the really radical lefties anymore. Maybe there aren’t enough of the old school radicals left to make it news. Your guess is as good as mine.
Either my happenstance or because my subconscious really runs the show, I ended up wearing a red shirt to work today. Lord knows I’m no socialist and hippies, as a group, tend to make me nervous, but to me May Day is still a Soviet holiday – one that brings back childhood memories of the news covering the USSR parading their latest and greatest hardware through Moscow to Red Square. I was 11 when the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union was lowered from the top of the Kremlin for the last time. Most kids that age probably wouldn’t remember where they were when they saw it happening live on television, but I do.
I’m a good enough historian to know that how we view past events is always flavored by the tenor of the times in which we live. As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as truly “objective” history. We always bring our personal biases and backgrounds into the analysis despite trying to avoid it. So here we are on May Day 2013, I’m wearing my red shirt, and I find myself missing the USSR. Sure, they were an oppressive expansionist empire based on an economic system that proved completely unsustainable, but they were at least the kind of enemy you grudgingly respect. Today’s petty thugs and tyrants could learn a lot from giving them a look.