I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in the 1950s. May was a month that could sometimes be warm and resplendent with flowers, or it could be cold and rainy, not quite letting go of Winter’s grasp. You never knew.

There were certain events that centered on May Day. From an elementary school kid’s point of view, it was all about the Maypole dance and celebration out at Keystone Field. From a union member’s perspective, it was about the May Day picnic marking solidarity with Union Workers.

And, because it was the era of the Cold War, it was also the ever-present reminder that the Soviet Union was out to kill us all, parading their soldiers, tanks, and rockets in Red Square for all to see.

Why Boomers are Neurotic

I put these three things together: marking a Gaelic fertility festival, fists in the air unionism, and cataclysmic political mutual destruction, as evidence why my generation is so neurotic!  I mean, c’mon!  Holding these three concepts simultaneously wasn’t difficult for any of us. It was “normal”!  There is something twisted in acknowledging that!

So, this May Day, as we continue to debate the utility of masking, as the world continues to slaughter each other in various parts of the globe, this day where politics has devolved into who wore what to the insurrection, and gardener-friends of mine comment on late blooms, I find myself wondering if anything has changed at all?

Surface Changes Only

The last great plague, (Spanish Flu – 1918-1920) ran its course without benefit of vaccines. It was credited with killing 50 million people worldwide. Covid has killed around 6.2 million so far. But that is with vaccines. And its still not done with us.

In an eerily familiar playbook, thousands are suffering daily in Ukraine at the hand of a Russian madman. I have given up watching the nightly news since all it does is show pictures of property destroyed and lives forever changed. This is becoming more of a spectator sport, similar to the gladiators. The warning of Martin Niemoller should be on the nightly crawl:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Union Proud/Union Strong

Where have all the unions gone?  (Long time passing . . . ) In my corner of the world, right now nurses are striking at a major hospital in solidarity with other non-medical workers for better working conditions. I don’t begrudge them that and I support their right to strike, but what about the patients?

Teachers are striking at elementary schools because the local school districts are facing low enrollments and higher costs to maintain the buildings. I support local schools and especially public schools, but there are financial realities that have to be faced. And what about the students?

Nationally, our political free-for-all seems better suited for vaudeville than reasoned discourse and policy-making. My beloved grandfather used to bemoan the fact that there were so few statesmen in Congress. He would be beyond the pale at what vox populi has seen fit to send to Washington, D.C.

And what is happening with climate change?  We no longer speak of winter, spring, summer or fall (all you gotta do is call!). Now we have fire season, flood and tornado season, deep freeze, and the remaining 10 or 12 days of the year that are habitable.

Longing for the Good Ole Days

It is so tempting to retreat to my memories of sweet spring days, where the wind became softer and was filled with the scent of lilacs. It would be wonderful to just bask in the echoes of childhood laughter as we danced around the Maypole. It would even be okay to remember the bizarrely naïve belief that we could survive a nuclear winter by digging bomb shelters or following the sing-song instructions to “Tuck-Duck and Cover” when the air raid siren went off.

Perhaps we could just re-run old news reports from Walter Cronkite, as he reassuringly let us know that’s the way it is before the Marlboro Man would urge us to buy a pack.

The World is Crazy Right Now

The fact that things continue as if there is nothing out of the ordinary going on is amazing to me. It makes me crazy. It makes me crazy that the basketball play-offs are going on and the NFL draft picks will be celebrating their new-found fame and fortune, and baseball fans will be returning to the stadiums around the country. It makes me crazy that the promise of bulbs planted last year will either come true or won’t, but will be discussed for months, wondering whether it was the frost or the gophers or the late spring that got them. The same conversation that happened last year, and the year before that, ad infinitum.

 It is remarkably easy to predict outcomes when you are far enough away to see the pattern. Sadly, we seem to have fallen into a particularly destructive pattern at present. People will be born and will die. We will pay taxes. My stake in the pot is that I am alive right now. These are things that are happening to me, maybe not directly, but at a spiritual level. I am a part of all the joy, the suffering, the rebirth and death that is repeating itself. What I choose to do with that knowledge is the one thing I have control over.

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