May 1 is the most sacred and significant day of the year on the calendar of the universal Left. It was, and in certain countries still is, the day of the Red Flag and the marching parade of millions of workers and the proletariat throughout the world. In the halcyon days of the Soviet Union, terrible and aggressive weapons of destruction were paraded before the eyes of the world in Red Square under the baleful watch of Stalin and his later successors.
How proud and confident they were in their belief of the eventual triumph of their cause and the effectiveness of their intercontinental ballistic missiles! Here in Israel, May Day was marked also with solemnity, speeches, commemorations, parades and the intensity of defiance of others that only the Left can muster.
I recall as a child growing up in Chicago that the Jewish Left defiantly organized their own commemorations on May Day in honor of Marx and his utopian doctrines and predictions. Like it or not, May Day then was an important date – a red-letter date – on the yearly calendar. Even in the Chicago public school that I attended as a child in the years of World War II, the Jewish teachers commemorated May Day in the classroom while the good old Irish spinster teachers ignored it.
There was a period of time in my life and childhood that I actually thought that May Day was a Jewish holiday! My mother soon disabused me of that folly. It is interesting to note that almost none of my grandchildren, even those who are grown and parents themselves, are completely unaware that there was and is such an important date on the calendar as May 1 – May Day. The world has certainly changed, especially the Jewish world, over the past century.
I find it interesting to note that the universal word for danger, distress, emergency and impending disaster is mayday. I am not certain as to how this came to be but I think that there is a certain ironic aptness to this coincidence of language. The original May Day came to bring about harmony, justice and fairness in the world. It was meant to eliminate the exploitation of the many by the few and to guarantee a better society and more glorious world for its human inhabitants.
Instead, it turned into a symbol of oppression, aggression, intolerance, false visions, unrealistic hopes and violent repression. It is this latter and very negative form of May Day that gives to me meaning and relevance to the universal use of mayday as a call of distress and warning.
One of the weaknesses of all ideologues is that they learn very little from past experience and history. In their firm belief that they know what is good for everyone, no matter what reality may tell them, they pursue policies that in the end are destructive even to their own goals and constituencies. This is true of all ideologies, but over the past century has been proven to be most true of the Left, especially of its Marxist component.
It is no wonder that May Day has pretty much faded away throughout the world and most tellingly here in Israel. Reality has caught up with its slogans, parades and skewed visions of the future.
Again, growing up in Chicago, May Day was the dominant holiday of the month of May while the festival of Shavuot was close to disappearing from Jewish society, except for the small pockets of the Orthodox and observant community. It has successfully since changed status, especially here in Israel. All night learning sessions, dairy foods, discussions about the book of Ruth are very popular and exist within all sections of Israeli society today. Certainly, over the last century, Shavuot is more popular than ever before.
It serves not only as a holiday but also as a moral compass, reiterating the commitment of the Jewish people to the Torah given at Sinai and into its own particular vision of attempting to advance a better society. The secular May Day of hope and fairness has somehow succumbed to the weight of its own dogmas and behavior. May Day and all that it represented has proven to be a false god and an empty dream.
For millions of people it was a nightmare of epic proportions. Shavuot, on the other hand, emphasizes the concentration on one’s own personal behavior, rather than attempting to fix the entire world with one fell swoop. May Day bit off more than it could chew. The Jewish world is built individual by individual, good deed by good deed and by following the moral code granted to us at Sinai on the first Shavuot of our existence, as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.