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Sometimes I wander through days and they are just days—the earth continues to be pulled in a spin around the sun and I get no useful organization or meaning through counting.
Other times, the history is so tangible, thick, and sticky that I can barely wade through it.
This year, my certain days calendar told me Mother’s Day coincided with the anniversary of the Philadelphia police dropping a bomb on the MOVE family’s home in 1985. Honoring and celebrating mothers is very important and this anniversary just highlighted for me how bittersweet it is when so many mothers are being torn apart from their children, and their grown children, by occupation, war, police, and prisons. I saw this today . . .
“Mother’s Day began in [u.s. occupied] America in 1870 when Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Written in response to the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, her proclamation called on women to use their position as mothers to influence society in fighting for an end to all wars. She called for women to stand up against the unjust violence of war through their roles as wife and mother, to protest the futility of their sons killing other mothers’ sons.” (more here)
And once my thoughts started unfolding in this way I couldn’t stop thinking about early May. . .
For the celtic pagans, and for others, Beltane and similar holidays brought/brings in the spring/summer season with fires, feasts, and celebration. The tradition still has literal adherents but it also resonates in indirect ways. With or without the practices, traditions, spiritual belief, relationship to land and season, many people can’t help but be affected by the shift toward spring and summer. Many can’t help but celebrate in some way.
In 1886 May 1st emerged as a day when workers would coordinate strikes and take to the streets, ideally in a general strike—the ideal of all workers going out on strike at the same time for better conditions, wages, and ultimately freedom from having to trade work to wealth-horders in order to survive. I don’t know if there’s any straight-forward relationship between Beltane and May Day but this somewhat lyrical essay that I found through political prisoner Mandy Hiscock’s blog brings them together nicely.
May 1st 2012 brought with it a culmination of activity around a call for a May Day General Strike. It didn’t shut down many workplaces through formal union activity but some of it spoke to a May 1st historic trajectory—an element of opposition to wealth and power that is outside of their control.
On May 4th 1886, a May Day bomb thrown in retaliation for the murder of workers caused deaths and injuries to police. Rather than accusing anyone of throwing the bomb, the city of Chicago took the opportunity to criminalize speeches and ideology, eventually executing four anarchists for speech. – On May 1st 2012, the FBI finished up an entrapment plot. They allegedly identified a group of “self-proclaimed anarchists,” allegedly talked them into bombing a bridge, allegedly supplied the fake bomb, and had them arrested for their alleged intentions on May Day so as to vilify anarchists to the media. Of course, anarchism comes from a humanistic tradition and would never intentionally put innocent civillians in harm’s way– unlike the FBI. It’s extremely likely that this May Day plot is a product of the FBI agents’ imaginations. They got to play the bad guys and the good guys and use people as props and at the heart of it, various agents of state are still attacking speech and ideology.
On May 4th, 1981, Provisional IRA prisoner of war, Bobby Sands died in prison on hunger strike. He refused food to the point of death just to protest his criminalization, just to assert that he was a prisoner of war, and extend legitimacy to the cause for a united sovereign Ireland free from Brittish occupation and intervention. As I write this, over 2000 Palestinian political prisoners are on hunger strike. The leadership released a statement on May 13th, refusing a compromise with Israel and affirming a willingness to die on strike.
On May 5th, 1862, within years of the Mother’s Day statement and May Day 1865, the people of Puebla drove a French occupying army out of Mexico and thwarted the last attempt of a foreign colonial power to take Mexico for themselves. Of course, imperialist interests have continued plunder the region, and must be driven out, but Mexico, as a regional home to many indigenous north american nations, has never been fully conquered and that is worth celebrating– though the united states’ cultural appropriation of Cinco de Mayo leaves something to be desired.
There’s a lot more I can do with historic dates and current events but I need to get this out while it’s still timely. Of course, early May is just a change in season. Looking at date-specific snapshots across time is a gimmick but hopefully also a tool to look at the present in some kind of context. Whether or not it’s useful, I can’t help but do it this time. Some people here, at this point in space-time, early May 2012, are inspired and moving forward. To them, all I can say is go go go.
For me, I’m excited to bring the May Day traditions forward another year, I’m excited about opportunities to make gains in all of these areas and I want to be moving faster. Supporting the political prisoners is equally crucial. The constant crisis and opportunity inspires me but also seems to wear me down almost before I begin. Positive energy seems to hit snags, turn inwards, and create black holes into useless sub-universes. I feel lost and I doubt myself when I move forward. This leads to increased trouble trying to keep up commitments already on my shoulders. How are you feeling?
Of course blogging doesn’t necessarily help lost people find their way. This is going to be one of several tools I’m trying out as part of Through the Walls. I’m going to try to harness inspiration other emotions and thoughts toward keeping up the work and finding new paths. I think for as many people as are pushing towards freer societies, there are more people having trouble keeping it up or getting started or plugging in.
All shared writing happens out of the arrogant assumption that one’s own words might be useful to others. I’m hoping this blog can help me and others get started or restarted on contributing to a better world. My pledge is to not recommend anything I don’t think is useful, and not advocate doing anything that I’m not doing myself. Hopefully I’ll be able to delve into issues more in the future, rather than just blurbing and linking. I’m not planning to make a habit of constantly comparing historic events to present ones but, for now. . .
.. . if you’re looking for a change, happy new beginning of a new old season to you.