Monday, May 2, 2011

A Happy (Chilly) May Day to All!

I wrote this earlier today while waiting for a ride home.

Last year, the May Day festival in my town was held in a summer-like glow of blooming lilacs and late tulips, the leaves fully emerged on most trees.  This year, the tulips are up, bravely, but the tree buds have been shy to come forth, leaves still mostly just peeking their noses out, but unwilling to spread out into the chilly air.  Around Powderhorn Lake, after the parade, the temperature seemed to drop even more, as a few flakes of snow skittered into my face.  I got too chilled to stay for the pageant, in spite of full winter garb (heavy fleece pants, long johns, heavy fleece shirt, winter coat, winter gloves).  Children's faces were a bit pinched from the cold, yet they called out, "Happy Mayday!" with gusto.

Now I am taking refuge in the May Day Cafe, a block or two from the park.  There were lines when I came in - for the hot drinks and bathroom - but most people have filtered out now, either back to the park or home for the day.

The walls here are decorated with photos from earlier May Day parades, the well-worn wooden tables littered with the program from this year.  The theme was "Caws to Unite!"

Thinking of the images and of the parade itself makes me a bit teary - not in a sentimental way, but from a place of deep unease.  Our generally progressive state ended up with a Republican congress and a Democrat governor.  So to avoid having legislation vetoed, the Republicans are proposing two state constitutional amendments: one to (in perpetuity) define marriage as between one man and one woman, and the other to require a state-issued picture ID with current address for someone to be able to exercise their "privilege" (as one legislator put it) to vote.  The estimate I read this morning is that up to 440,000 people could be potentially disenfranchised in any given election .  This is being rammed quickly through despite no evidence of any measurable voter fraud.  I have seldom felt this sucker-punched.

Yet - these happy children today, dressed as crows of warning on their stilts, or carried in wagons as seedlings and hatchlings of the future, do provide hope.  Surely - if not in my lifetime - the powers of love and respect in this country will overcome the powers of fear and ignorance.
Click to see the sleeping fledglings
This gathering was more somber than some, in the black garb of the crows beginning and ending the parade, and in the wintery gray sky -- yet surprisingly, the crowd lining the streets was large and glad.  The goodness and power of the springtime is free for us all.  Laughter can't be taxed, or packaged for the market.  Our children to come won't hate us if we fail to hold strong against the political backlash of fear and ignorance, but they will pity us.

May we hold strong instead, and leave a legacy of celebration, inclusion, and wisdom.  From the street chants of my youth:  the people // united // will never be defeated.


Laoch of Chicago said...

Well said.

When I was a boy and in Ireland they used to have the Bealtaine celebration on May Day. It was traditionally a fertility festival and devoted to optimism. It has transformed in modern times to a labor day celebration there and other places.

ellen abbott said...

the politics of exclusion. what has happened to this country.

Madame DeFarge said...

Slightly delayed, but happy May Day too!