Monday is Labour Day. Here in America it’s spelt Labor Day because of the the Great Depression and the War. In order to create jobs and to stem the tide of global fascism, most of America’s U’s were melted down between 1937 and 1945 to increase the output of pro-war propaganda[i] and German ethnic slurs[ii] for the war effort. Roosevelt’s U Drive helped the Allies win the war, but it’s been causing us to lose Scrabble games to our friends across the pond ever since.
In honour of the men and women who have spent their lives toiling long hours under impossible conditions just to earn an honest living, each post this week will be dedicated to an awesome labourer.
Like many payers of homage, there is an element of guilt inspiring my tribute. I don’t work, or at least I don’t do the kind of back-breaking, self-sacrificing manual labour I am here paying tribute to. And I feel guilty about it.
The sad truth is, I’m a disgrace to my family name. I come from a long line of manly labourers. Going back to my Scottish roots, my ancestors were cattle thieves. When they immigrated to the United States, some of them became train robbers. It may not have been honest work, but it was manly. And tough. On my father’s side I’m of lumberjack stock. Our ancestral town, which still bears our name, is an entire city of lumberjacks to this very day. My grandfather was a lumberjack too. And a coal miner. And a carpenter. Both of my grandfathers lived through the Great Depression and World War II.
I, on the other hand, am a high school teacher and an artist who cries a lot.
Perhaps in writing this I hope to honour the ancestors who would shun me at family reunions were they still living. Perhaps I have it in me to be a great labourer as well, but I haven’t had the opportunity to test my mettle. Perhaps I just wanted to use the expression “test my mettle” without actually having to, you know, test it.
What is certain is that the labourers of this world are awesome and deserve our recognition and gratitude. Labourers, this week is for you.
[i] “Uncle Sam wants you!” read “Ncle Sam wants yo!” until April, 1937.
[ii] Krat didn’t make quite as much sense as kraut.