In 2020, not so much.
This time around Americans are coping with the health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and millions who have lost their livelihoods are still looking for work. But this is far from the first Labor Day to take place in a troubled nation. In fact, in 1894, in the weeks after President Glover Cleveland signed the law designating the first Monday in September as a national holiday, he sent in federal troops to end a crippling nationwide work boycott and strike of Pullman railroad workers. In a confrontation, national guard troops fired into a crowd, killing as many as 30.
Labor Day this year comes as early voting is beginning in one of the most tumultuous presidential races in decades, as President Donald Trump tries to make the election about violence in some American cities arising out of protests over police conduct. Meanwhile, his 2020 rival, Vice President Joe Biden, is zeroing in on the failures that have contributed to the deaths of more than 188,000 Americans from Covid-19 — as experts predict that hundreds of thousands more will die by the end of the year unless more precautions are taken.
Historian Joseph J. Ellis recalled Benjamin Franklin’s famous line about what the Constitutional Convention had accomplished. “A well-dressed Philadelphia matron spied America’s elder statesman and asked, ‘Mr. Franklin, what have you done?’ ‘Given you a republic,’ Franklin replied, ‘if you can keep it.’
No one knows
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This isn’t over yet…by any means
Six months into the pandemic’s surge in the US, there is no sign that it is ending. A widely cited computer model upped its prediction for the death toll Friday. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said another 224,000 Americans could die by January 1, bringing the total count to more than 400,000, unless precautions like wearing masks are adopted more widely.
For his part, the President made fun of Biden this week for regularly wearing a mask and Trump appears to be listening to the advice of a new adviser, Scott Atlas, who has been an opponent of strict Covid-19 lockdowns.
Kent Sepkowitz noted that Atlas “would ignore the mostly healthy and focus only on highest risk groups, such as the old, the sick and those with chronic medical conditions, such as weakened immune systems … he is overlooking the outcome of the tragic experiment of nature that has happened over the past six months.” Healthy young people spread the very contagious coronavirus to family and friends, including those most at risk, Sepkowitz wrote.
On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did something “selfish and stupid,” wrote Jill Filipovic, and President Trump pounced. “She got her hair done inside a San Francisco salon, in violation of that city’s coronavirus rules, and walked, maskless (according to security footage obtained by Fox News) from one room to another apparently after getting her hair washed. (The Speaker’s staff insist she wore her mask at all other times during her hair styling and had gone inside as a result of incorrect information from someone at the salon about what was allowed by brand-new city regulations.)”
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In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, wrote David A. Love, “Black Lives Matter has emerged as perhaps the largest movement in US history. It enjoys widespread public support and participation, as 15 to 26 million people have participated in the George Floyd protests, and the NBA and WNBA, along with professional baseball, hockey, soccer and tennis players have staged a historic strike to stand against racism.”
According to a video taken shortly before a 17-year-old allegedly shot and killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, police were seen “passing in an armored vehicle, offering Rittenhouse and the group of armed civilians bottles of water, and broadcasting over a loudspeaker ‘We appreciate you guys. We really do,'” wrote former police chief Cedric L. Alexander.
Summer of staying put
For 18 months, poet Tess Taylor made plans for a memorable 2020. She would launch her fourth book of poetry with a tour of 42 cities. She was going to teach in Paris, give a reading in Edinburgh and visit Ireland. “I had a cute blazer, one great lightweight carry-on case. I had travel-size hair balm in my favorite brand. I was ready to roll,” she wrote.
None of that happened, of course. Because Covid-19.
But like most everyone else with busted plans, Taylor found other ways to make it through:
- “This year we planned to have a baby. What we did not plan was to do it in the middle of a global pandemic.” — Jessica LaPalm-Lorimer Nashville, Tennessee
- “After four months of self-isolation I called my parents and asked if I could come stay with them. I packed up my Ford Fiesta (that my ex-husband hated) and drove to my parents. I’m no longer within four walls and instead of silence the faint echo of the Game Show Network can be heard from the next room. I haven’t ever loved the Game Show Network as much as I do right now.” — Colleen Forsyth, Tucson, Arizona
- “I am a full-time wedding photographer, usually taking on 30+ weddings a year and having a completely booked schedule after April. This summer stopped me in my tracks, for good. I had anxiety that turned into ideas that turned into new dreams. I had more time with my dogs, my husband, and my plants … Quarantine forced me to slow down and think about what I love and what I do during the day. It made me a better entrepreneur and a more creative person.” — Allison Kuhlman, Akron, Ohio
- “We play and eat outside as much as we can, we read books, we play games, and we watch movies. We yell, cry, scream, hug, and make it through to the next day. We have taught the children to make bread, to sew, and to cook. Our 10-foot inflatable pool has been a fixture in our backyard this summer. We have special days and make-up special events (Avengers Day, Harry Potter Weekend, Camp Out Inside Day). It is important to create new holidays to break up the monotony. We are lucky, and we tell the kids this fact. — Joel Farbman, Huntsville, Alabama
All of us at CNN Opinion hope your summer had many pleasant rewards. And happy Labor Day!