The Mountain Times

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Celebrations of loyalty and patriotism

RUTLAND- This year marked the 50th Annual Loyalty Day parade in Rutland City.

Loyalty Day celebrations began to take place in America in response to the "red scare" of the 1920's. Communist Russia had been organizing marches and protests in line with the May 1 recognition of the Haymarket massacre of 1886. American officials were keen to develop a more "democratic" holiday. Loyalty Day has since become a legal holiday, but it is not an official Federal holiday, so many American's remain unaware of it. It is celebrated with parades and ceremonies in many communities in America and is considered an opportunity to reaffirm and celebrate patriotism.

The Rutland chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has had an integral part of carrying on the Loyalty Day tradition for 50 years. It has organized the most impressive celebration of the holiday in the region by presenting the biggest parade in Rutland the weekend after May 1. One thing that has added to the enduring charm of the parade is the simple rule that politics and campaigning are off limits.

This year the patriotic spirit was alive and well in the downtown as spectators enjoyed cloudless skies and summer-like temperatures. Bands from area schools including Proctor, Mill River and West Rutland performed to enthusiastic crowds along the parade route, which snaked through the northwest part of the city and ended up in Depot Park.

Highlights from this year included several American Legion Posts, dozens of representatives from VFW chapters and other veterans' organizations.  In addition to honoring those who have served the country, the parade also acts to recognize civic organizations and emergency service personnel. Those who regularly put their lives on the line for the community clearly enjoy displaying their fire engines, ambulances and rescue vehicles as much as spectators enjoy seeing them. The ladder truck from Killington had a special place along the parade route; it helped hold up a 50-foot American flag near the parade's terminus.

State and local officials are always amongst the marchers and they include the Board of Aldermen and State officials including Peter Shumlin who thanked the crowd at the end of the route. He said he was grateful that he was able to take part in a celebration that honored the country and the specific contributions from Vermont and the Rutland region.

In over 80 countries worldwide, May 1 is International Workers Day or May Day and it is often recognized by the government to honor the accomplishments of its workers. In many of those countries, thousands of protestors gathered to demonstrate and demand better conditions for the working class.

Workers worldwide are under increasing pressure as wages fall, inputs must increase and the income gap between rich and poor widens every year. In the beginning of 2013, the world's greatest financial minds got together in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum. The prognosis was negative, especially for the working class of developed nations. A shrinking middle class, decreased social mobility and a widening income gap are problems worldwide.

In America, stagnant wages, middle class debt and a recent recession are blamed for historic income inequality. According to the data compiled at the forum only Turkey, Chile and Mexico have a greater income disparity among the developed nations. According to a recent article in CNN Money, the average CEO makes 379 times the average worker. At the top of that list is the CEO of Apple who makes 6,258 times what an average Apple employee makes.

Despite the troubling statistics, outside of a few leftist groups, May Day protests have no place in America. In general Labor movements are not given the credence they receive overseas. Some explanation for (at least on this specific day) may be found by looking into our Loyalty Day celebrations, which divert our attention from change to patriotism.