Where Has All the Labor Gone?

Labor Day

Sometimes I really miss the days when people had convictions and protested and sang about issues. It’s not that there aren’t people, and even a few corporations, who have convictions and are trying to make a difference and do the right thing in lives and regions wracked with horribleness. It’s just that you have to search for it.

Labor Day is a perfect example. The only thing I hear about Labor Day is that it it the three-day weekend marking the end of summer and fashion dictates no white shoes after Labor Day. That’s it?!? No why we celebrate it in the first place at the very least?

I get it that the dismal economy and ever-increasing unemployment rate, not to mention the slow-roil of general malaise makes labor a toxic issue. The United States was in the throes of a horrible recession, railroad workers endured a violent strike because their wages had been cut, and there were protections against children as young as five and six years working. It was also an election year. President Grover Cleveland wanted to redeem his image after a number of workers died at the hands of U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman strike, and made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894. (I wonder if there’s anything we can learn from history?) It’s easier to have a bbq and celebrate the end of summer and put away the white shoes.

At some point, I wonder how are we going to deal with the complexities of a global, interconnected community. If a butterfly wing whisper in China affects weather in the United States, how can everything else not impact everything?

There are lots of people, across many fabrics of faith considering these complexities. It saddens me that the only voices making a ruckus in Christian circles are the theologically UN-sound political candidates. We almost need the obligatory rebuttal to whatever bizarre comments are being made about natural disasters, other faith groups…you get my drift.

Interestingly, every belief system has at its core a commitment and responsibility to community. It’s as though we human beings know in our heart of hearts that we must care for each other and creation if we are going to survive. There is a shared acknowledgment of the sacredness of all life.¬†Each faith system may have slightly different ways for expressing this, but it’s there.

While there is the commitment and responsibility to community, there is also the recognition that it starts with the individual. It starts with each of us and grows from there. Contrary to what many think, the laws “given” in the Old Testament weren’t given by an exacting God who relished in the subservience and groveling of the Israelites. The laws were given as a guideline for the health, well-being, and survival of the community. Their beliefs were to bind them together for the greater good and an identity, much like healthy nationalism today.

So where does that leave us with Labor Day? I hope it’s more than the last hurrah of summer. I hope it gives us pause to be thankful that children can’t be forced into labor at least here in the U.S. and remember that children is most countries don’t have that same consideration. I hope it gives us pause to think of creative ways we can support our brothers and sisters who are unemployed or underemployed. I hope we can maintain a thread of optimism that the collective goodness of our beliefs will prevail and that the right things will ultimately be done on behalf of our global community. Amen.


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