Over the weekend, I saw various postings on Facebook that Donald Trump has declared May 1 “Loyalty Day.” My first thought was that couldn’t be true – surely that was some far-left website taking something out of context.
Nope – it’s true. As Fox News reported:
President Donald Trump on Friday proclaimed May 1 as ‘Loyalty Day’ as a way to “recognize and reaffirm our allegiance to the principles” upon which America was built and express pride in those ideals, according to a release of the proclamation from the White House.
I can’t find a text version of the complete proclamation – a photo of the original document is here.
In fairness to Trump – and the truth always matters, even when it partially excuses the actions of a wannabe dictator – he is far from the first President to make such a proclamation. According to Esquire:
Loyalty Day was first observed in 1921 in response to the First Red Scare. It became a legally designated holiday in 1958, thanks to an act of Congress, and it has been observed annually by every president since. Loyalty Day is defined as “the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.”
A bad idea with a 60-year heritage is still a bad idea.
And of course, some of the same people who are giving condescending history lectures this year were mocking Loyalty Day last year.
The very idea of a loyalty day is offensive, no matter who is issuing the proclamation. Loyalty by command is feudalism. Real loyalty must be earned – this is who has earned my loyalty.
I’m loyal to my Gods and ancestors
The Gods I follow have been good to me. They teach me Their values and virtues. They make it possible for me to be a part of something much bigger than myself. They protected me when I was vulnerable and They continue to teach me how to be stronger and wiser. Their presence in my life brings joy… and occasionally terror, though that terror is never without need. They have been good to me, and so I am loyal to Them.
If it were not for my ancestors, I would not be. This is a literal statement of fact, not a symbol or a metaphor. Because of them I did not start this life at zero – I started with a cultural heritage and with considerable material infrastructure. Some of that heritage is problematic and some of it needs to be changed, but I benefited from it and so I owe my ancestors a debt of honor and gratitude. I need not and must not ignore their shortcomings, but I must be loyal to them.
I’m loyal to Nature and the spirits of Nature
Without Nature, none of us would be. Again, this is a literal statement of fact. We were not placed on the Earth, we grew out of the Earth. The Earth is our Great Mother and is therefore worthy of our honor, respect, and loyalty.
The sun shines, and so we live. The rain falls, and so we live. The grain grows, and so we live. Not always easily and never with certainty, but it is only because of Nature that we live.
I have a place in this world. It is not at the top nor at the center, but I have a place and I am thankful for it. I do my best to live in harmony with Nature and to respect the sovereignty of other species and ecosystems. I recognize the debt I owe to Nature, and so I am loyal to Nature.
I’m loyal to my family of blood and my family of spirit
Humans are social animals – we live together, not as lone wolves. We have an obligation to support and care for each other, especially those who support and care for us. For the vast majority of us, our blood relatives are at the top of that list.
My family is overwhelmingly Christian. I have had exactly zero family members give me trouble because I’m Pagan. Now, they don’t exactly embrace it, but that’s OK. They’re happy with their religion, I’m happy with mine, and as a Pagan I have no need to convert them. We share our common heritage, our common experiences, and our mutual commitment to each other.
Some families are not so supportive. We have no obligation to be loyal to those who abuse or abandon us.
Family is not just those who share our DNA. Family is also those who share our lives. I have a large and extended family of spirit who share my values and my religion. I do my best to support them, even when we fight for seemingly needless reasons. I have a much smaller but much closer local Pagan family. I am loyal to them in part because they are loyal to me, but also because we are working together to build a vibrant Pagan community where we are.
I’m loyal to the ideals of the United States of America
Winston Churchill said “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.” For all its failings and shortcomings – and there are many – the United States of America is an amazing experiment in democracy. If we have failed to live up to our noble ideals, that should be a call to recommit to them, not to abandon them.
I’m loyal to the idea that all people are created equal, even if we’ve yet to fully realize that ideal. I’m loyal to freedom of religion, including religious freedom for Muslims, Pagans, atheists, and even fundamentalist Christians.
I’m loyal to the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Let people live their lives as they see fit, so long as they don’t intrude on the rights of others to do the same. We can debate the proper balance of collective action vs. individual action (socialism vs. libertarianism) but when it comes to individual rights there can be no debate.
I’m loyal to one nation, indivisible. Let the states craft policies that fit their unique situations (Nevada needs a different water policy than Tennessee), and let the states experiment with different approaches to, say, health care and education. But my rights as an American are the same in Utah as they are in California. Social issues are not state issues.
I’m not abandoning the United States to Trump and his ilk. Call me naïve. Call me stubborn. You can even call me patriotic. But I’m loyal to the ideals of the United States of America.
I have no loyalty to politicians
My politics are pretty pragmatic – I’ll work with anybody who supports my values, regardless of party or personality. And I’ll oppose anyone who works against my values. I do a lot of lesser-evil voting, particularly since I live in Texas.
I have no loyalty to office-holders. Donald Trump may be President of the United States, but that means nothing to me. When he’s right, I’ll support him (I’m still waiting on all that infrastructure spending he promised). When he’s wrong (pretty much everything else in his platform) I’ll oppose him.
Too many politicians – particularly on the political right – confuse loyalty to country with support for the politicians currently in power. I have no loyalty to them. Rather, my loyalty to my country compels me to oppose the politicians in power.
Today is May 1, the holy day of Beltane for most modern Pagans. It is a time to celebrate the beginning of Summer and fertility in all its many forms. But it’s also a time for the beginning of campaigns for sovereignty and justice. As such, it is a time to review our loyalties and our commitments.
Loyalty Day is a bad idea started for a bad reason and it needs to be ended. But this year’s loyalty proclamation serves as a stark reminder that true loyalty cannot be commanded. It must be earned.