President Donald Trump shocked many Americans on Friday when he declared May 1, 2017, to be Loyalty Day. Some Twitter users who had only known May 1 to be May Day, also known as International Workers Day, speculated that President Trump was creating a new holiday to stand in opposition to the international event celebrated by communists, anarchists, and unionized workers each year. Although Donald Trump did not create Loyalty Day, his especially nationalistic take on the concept has effectively jarred and offended supporters of communist thought.
Trump’s Loyalty Day Speech vs. Obama’s Loyalty Day Speech
Even those who recognize that Loyalty Day has been commemorated by the president each year since 1958 point out that President Trump’s take on the holiday is vastly different from that of past presidents. The Washington Post published transcripts of both President Trump’s speech and the Loyalty Day speech given by President Obama for comparison. The tone of Trump’s speech is nationalistic, honoring our military and warning of enemies that seek to destroy the nation.
“As one Nation, we will always stand strong against the threats of terrorism and lawlessness. The loyalty of our citizenry sends a clear signal to our allies and enemies that the United States will never yield from our way of life. Through the Department of Defense and other national security agencies, we are working to destroy ISIS, and to secure for all Americans the liberty terrorists seek to extinguish.”
President Obama, on the other hand, focused his speech on the abolition of slavery and civil rights marches, sending the message that being American is about beliefs and does not depend on one’s demographics.
“This Loyalty Day, let us remember that what defines us as one American people is our dedication to common ideals — rather than similarities of origin or creed — and let us reaffirm that embracing this truth lies at the heart of what it means to be a citizen.”
This is a decidedly globalist declaration, spreading the message that ideas and principles bind a people tighter than national origin. In this way, Obama’s Loyalty Day speech is less about loyalty to the American country and the American people and more about loyalty to abstract concepts of justice and equality.
Although Trump’s Loyalty Day speech mentions these values as well, he is clear that he is honoring the “unique heritage” of the United States of America, emphasizing a focus on “self-governance,” and honoring those who have fought overseas to defend the Constitution.
Some individuals on the political left, especially communists and socialists, do not appreciate President Trump’s nationalistic Loyalty Day speech, calling it “nativist.” Many echo the sentiments of noted leftist thinker Noam Chomsky, who has defined nativism as nothing more than racism that has no basis in reality.
Interestingly, Chomsky admits that the white population will soon be a minority in America and yet still asserts that those with nativist sentiments have nothing real to worry about, disparaging Trump supporters who are concerned about illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism in a hackneyed comparison to the Hitler supporters of Nazi Germany.
Others take cheap shots at Trump’s personal life, alleging that it is hypocritical for him to celebrate “loyalty” when he has been divorced twice and has been accused of cheating on his wives.
Although President Trump may have delivered a more nationalistic Loyalty Day speech than his predecessors, the U.S. has a long history of reaffirming American patriotism, especially during times in which communist forces have sought to wrestle loyalty away from America and towards international labor movements.
History Of Loyalty Day
According to U.S. News & World Report, Loyalty Day was first celebrated in 1921 after the first Red Scare and has been an official recurring day of commemoration since President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared it as such in 1958, following the second Red Scare. The U.S. Code states that the purpose of Loyalty Day is to celebrate “the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American Freedom.”
It isn’t a coincidence that this patriotic holiday was declared on May Day, which is International Workers’ Day.
According to the Massachusetts court system, the Red Scare of 1919-1920 was a period after World War I when many Americans became concerned about growing communist, socialist, and anarchist sentiments, especially after the admittance of many immigrants from Russia after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. One cause of the Red Scare was the rise of unemployment rates after World War I, which led to increased participation in labor unions. Some union activity led to labor strikes, such as the Boston Police Strike of 1919, causing many to be concerned about revolution. The war also increased American patriotism while communist revolutions overseas sparked concerns that immigrants from Russia, Eastern Europe, and Southern Europe may plan to overthrow the government.
These fears began to materialize when anarchists sent bombs in the mail to government officials, including United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and United States Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, according to the Massachusetts court system. This led to government raids on radical organizations, leading to the arrest of thousands of citizens and the deportation of several thousand aliens who were suspected of radicalism. On April 29, 1920, Attorney General Palmer asserted that May Day plots, in which the lives of over twenty federal and state officials were threatened, had been discovered and averted. According to U.S. News & World Report, Loyalty Day was reportedly designated on May 1 as a response to the sentiments of International Workers day, which was celebrated by communists and socialists each year.
History Of International Workers’ Day
According to Al Jazeera, May 1 was enshrined as International Workers’ Day by communists, socialists, and trade unionists to commemorate the Haymarket Riot of 1886. However, this day already had significance for unionists, since May 1, 1886, had been declared as the day that the eight-hour workday would go into effect. This led to a massive strike of between 300,000 and 500,000 American workers.
A few days later, the peaceful strike turned violent after workers started fighting with strikebreakers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. After police opened fire to disperse the crowd in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, a protester threw a bomb at police, killing seven police officers and at least four civilians. Police arrested eight anarchists, seven of which were sentenced to death, according to Al Jazeera.
To commemorate this event and the arrested anarchists, whom many communists and unionists viewed as martyrs for their cause, May 1 was declared to be International Workers’ Day by Second International, an international organization for workers and socialists, in 1889. To this day, union members, communists, socialists, and anarchists all celebrate May Day with parades, protests, and strikes each year.
Loyalty Day’s Nationalism Stands In Direct Opposition to May Day’s International Message
Loyalty Day is not just a patriotic government response to the communist sentiments that are attached to May Day. Loyalty Day also attacks the internationalist message of the aptly-named International Workers’ Day. Communism is by its very nature a global movement that knows no borders and no nation. By focusing on patriotism and national ties, Loyalty Day fights these sentiments and reminds Americans of their unique culture and traditions.
President Trump’s Loyalty Day speech plays an important role in reinforcing the U.S. government’s opposition to communism and also restating his own nationalist campaign promise to put “America first.”
[Featured Image by Petros Karadjias/AP Images]