Today is May 1, 2019, celebrated as Law Day in the United States. As federally recognized special days or semi-holidays this is a rather recent addition. The former Soviet Union celebrated May Day to commemorate International Workers Day. Soon this evolved into a display in Moscow’s Red Square as a major military parade with hundreds of flowing red banners celebrating international socialism and communism. Many countries around the world still celebrate the observance of a workers day in their struggle to achieve better pay and working conditions.
In the United States the response during the Eisenhower Administration was to proclaim May 1, 1958 as Law Day in the United States. Later in 1961, the United States made Law Day a statutorily recognized special day of celebration in 36 United States Code §113, which states in part:
Law Day, U.S.A., is a special day of celebration by the people of the United States—
(1) in appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States and of their rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law in their relations with each other and with other countries; and
(2) for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.
With the current tensions in our society there could not be a more perfect time to reflect on the purpose this day stands for – and to remember that it must be observed more than on one day.
We must remember that our society is founded on principles which reach across political, social, ethnic, racial, religious and economic status. We each have a duty to treat each other civilly in our discourse and with respect. This does not mean we surrender our honest beliefs or give up our principles. But we must always examine our own beliefs and principles to align with the ideals of equality and justice under the law for all people.
Racism and religious bigotry are not new, they have both been with us for centuries. But we, in doing our part to making this country a more perfect Union, must stand for what is true and right without fear or malice of our own. We must look injustice in the eye and say this shall not stand. We must look religious bigotry in the eye and say you will not prevail. We must look racism in the eye and say you do not belong in our society.
“We are a nation of laws not of men.” That maxim has been uttered time and time again. But we must make it reality and not a hollow shibboleth. We as citizens must embrace the cause of truth, justice and equality personally every day. Like the ripples in a pond these concepts flow out from a single act. Just as injustice, inequality and racism flow out from a single act. If we see such acts we must admonish the offender to stop, but we must be mindful that much injustice and racism is born of ignorance and we must be a teacher not more. Wrongful beliefs are no less deeply held and no less resistant to change than are rightful beliefs. We must reach out to those who would reject the foundations of our nation – not with judgmentalism and acrimony; but with compassion and nurturing so they may see the better path and the futility of prejudice, bigotry and racism. That all men and women are entitled under our Constitution to equal treatment, free from oppression, and bias.
No country in history has ever been perfect, ours included. But the founders of this country had a vision to build a society unlike any previous nation. As human beings we are subject to our own frailties and poor judgment. But we must strive to be the best we can be in order to advance the goals of the founders to create a more perfect Union. As the late author and playwright, George Bernard Shaw once said, “You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say Why not?” Let us dream things which never were; ending injustice, ending religious bigotry, ending racism, and say, “We did it.”