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Truthdigger of the Week

Truthdiggers of the Week: The May Day Occupiers

Every week, Truthdig recognizes an individual or group of people who spoke truth to power, blew the whistle or stood up in the face of injustice. See past winners here, and nominate the next awardee here.

There were doubts about whether Occupy Wall Street could pull off the massive day of protest its organizers spent many months planning. But demonstrators in New York City and elsewhere joined forces with labor unions and immigrant-rights activists to remind the public that there is a working class and May 1 is its holiday.

They did so in spite of opposition from various corners. For example, just over one year ago, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine ordered the removal of a 36-foot-wide mural at the Department of Labor building in Augusta depicting the history of the state’s laboring class. A spokesman for LePage, a Republican, said the mural had offended some business owners, that it was “one-sided” and not in keeping with the labor department’s pro-business goals. It was removed and placed in storage until a more “appropriate venue” for the work could be found.

Opposition elsewhere has been more insidious. Instead of offering a nod to workers this May Day, the White House proclaimed May 1 “Loyalty Day”—an occasion to remember American citizens’ debts to the protective vision of the U.S. Constitution and those who struggled to defend it. “Loyalty Day” appears to be no different from Independence Day, but rather just a slightly different repackaging of the same bland appeal to patriotism that has become the hallmark of campaign seasons and seems more intended to instruct Americans to bracket whatever grievances they have and be happy with their country.

The Americans who filled the nation’s streets and squares on May Day know better. They know corporations own the legislative process. They know there is no meaningful difference between a vote for Goldman Sachs candidate A and Goldman Sachs candidate B. Even if they don’t agree on the particulars of the problem or any singular solution, they grasp that something is wrong with America, and they have shown time and again that they are willing to risk their bodies in confrontations with police and give up the respect of their fellow Americans, many of whom misunderstand their efforts and are to eager to insult them.

With those sacrifices in mind, we select the May Day Occupiers as our Truthdiggers of the Week. We’ll leave the final honors for those protesters to President Obama, who should have written the following words from his “Loyalty Day” dedication for them:

In the years since our Constitution was penned and ratified, Americans have moved our Nation forward by embracing a commitment to each other, to the fundamental principles that unite us, and to the future we share. We weathered the storms of civil war and segregation, of conflicts that spanned continents. We overcame threats from within and without — from the specter of fascism abroad to the bitter injustice of disenfranchisement at home. We upheld the spirit of service at the core of our democracy, and we widened the circle of opportunity not just for a privileged few, but for the ambitious many. Time and again, men and women achieved what seemed impossible by joining imagination to common purpose and necessity to courage. That legacy still burns brightly, and the ideals it embodies remain a light to all the world.

–Alexander Reed Kelly

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