Yes, dear reader, I have to confess I was a bit of a show-off in this way. But underlying this ostentatious behavior of a naive, boastful, journeyman laborer was a simple fact: I was a hard-working young lad! By going above and beyond expectations for my printing customers, I soon had a thriving business with numbers of lucrative contracts, an extremely popular almanac, one of the colonies' highest-circulation newspapers, and a growing reputation as a man of honesty, integrity, and well-respected political savvy.
From there, of course, it was but a short journey to my various other achievements, like my scientific discoveries and inventions, the charitable and philanthropic contributions (like starting the first lending library, a volunteer fire company, a college, and so forth), and ultimately the involvement in birthing our new nation.
What does this have to do with #LaborDay?
Now, you may ask, what does all this have to do with the subject of labor — more specifically, this new holiday you modern people of the 21st century call #LaborDay? Has old Franklin gone off on another one of his odd tangents in that time travel-addled imagination of his?
Actually, no. I am in full possession of my senses. I'm merely reflecting on what this #LaborDay holiday means for us all today, in light of the country's present political predicament and socio-economic upheavals.
At the risk of oversimplifying the matter, I can tell you this: at the heart of human nature is a desire to be productive, to work, to have gainful, well-paying employment that puts food on the table and allows families to prosper, not merely to exist at some meager level barely above abject poverty. When that normal desire is stymied, whether through accident, illness, changing conditions in the marketplace (such as automobiles replacing horse-drawn carriages, eliminating the need for buggy whip makers), or intentional greed and manipulation on the part of business owners or government officials, then there will be hell to pay!
Scapegoating to disguise the true problems
Scapegoats are often found by the ill-informed, dishonest, and unscrupulous trouble makers among us, to shift the blame to easy targets like recent immigrants — hungry for work, they're eager to take on even the most menial jobs, which many other citizens are now loath to do. They're not taking away jobs, they're doing the ones the rest of us might consider beneath our dignity or too low-paying to support ourselves.
Yet we tend to blame them for our troubles, even though there are other forces at play that should be recognized as the true source of our problems. Unfortunately, when this blame-shifting happens, it prevents us from coming together as good-hearted, well-intentioned people and solving problems like this — devoting our time, money, and resources to the real issue, not some fake one that demagogues have created to feather their own nest.
A new focus for #LaborDay
Perhaps this year's #LaborDay should be devoted not only to celebrating workers, but also to re-examining the nature of work in this great land of ours. The value of work, the important role of labor unions, the proper balance of work and leisure, the availability of employer-provided benefits like education and affordable healthcare, the concern of equal opportunity for all (with no discrimination on the basis of gender, race, culture, religion, country of origin, political affiliation, disabilities, etc.), and creating meaningful jobs for all who want them — these are the things we really ought to be concerned about this #LaborDay2018. Not the color of one's skin or the fearful protectionism that subverts what America is all about — a land of liberty and opportunity, especially for those seeking sanctuary here from violence, oppression, and unhealthy living conditions elsewhere.
Just a thought to ponder!
Your humble servant,