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May 1: The workers of the world unite to celebrate May Day (or International Workers Day - take your pick).

But here in the United States, we don't celebrate no bombing of the Chicago Haymarket Square by some dirty hippie anarchist. Oh no. For you see, May 1 is Loyalty Day.

Ah, yes, Loyalty Day. A young tradition, but an important one. Apparently, in 1958, some Congressfolk got the idea that American citizens didn't get enough opportunities to show their loyalty to their country. Or worse, they might celebrate communist holidays. To counter the intense threat against American democracy presented by Soviet May Day celebrations, Congress enacted Public Law 85-529, deeming May 1 Loyalty Day. As everyone knows about all of the great traditions surrounding this hallowed day, I'll just cut this short.

WHAT?! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT LOYALTY DAY IS?

Good God. We're in worse shape than I thought. What do our schools teach these days? I mean, seriously. I suppose you're a card-carrying member of the Communist Party, too. Well, let me read to you from the United States Code, son. Listen up, because this is important:


TITLE 36--PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES, CEREMONIES, AND
ORGANIZATIONS

Subtitle I--Patriotic and National Observances and Ceremonies

Part A--Observances and Ceremonies

CHAPTER 1--PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES

Sec. 115. Loyalty Day

(a) Designation.--May 1 is Loyalty Day.
(b) Purpose.--Loyalty Day is a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.
(c) Proclamation.--The President is requested to issue a proclamation--
  (1) calling on United States Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on Loyalty Day; and   (2) inviting the people of the United States to observe Loyalty Day with appropriate ceremonies in schools and other suitable places.


You hear that? Flags! And a proclamation! And schools! Who knew presidents got to make proclamations? You would have thunk that was the sort of thing only kings did, eh? Well, the President is far more important than any king. And you (assuming you're one of the people of the United States) are invited to attend!

All right. That's enough sarcasm. I only recently discovered Loyalty Day, and from what I can tell, few other U.S. citizens are actually aware of any sort of May Day observance of this type. However, the sitting President does, in fact, issue an appropriate proclamation every year. It's attracted slightly more visibility post 9-11, prompting a few people I've spoken with to assume it's a Bush propaganda invention. Rest assured, however, that it's no such thing - it's a good old fashioned artifact of the red scare.

Furthermore, this wasn't a top-down thing. The practice of celebrating a day of loyalty to the government of the United States originated in the 30s, during the Great Depression when communism wasn't looking so bad. Those who were opposed to communism decided that they needed a way to counteract communist commemorations of May Day, and so veterans' and patriotic organizations invented Loyalty Day. The bill that finally made the observance official was signed in 1958 by President Eisenhower, after having been sponsored in the Senate by North Dakota's Karl Mundt and in the House by Pennsylvania's James Van Zandt.

Interestingly, Section 113 of Title 36 names May 1 as Law Day, as well. It seems that after Eisenhower's first Loyalty Day proclamation, the American Bar Association decided it wanted in on the action of protecting American from the Red Peril, and pushed for May 1 to be Law Day, as well. Law day is nestled into the Code with the same basic request for a proclamation and display of the flag as Loyalty Day, so it is, for all intents and purposes, the exact same thing.

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