Labor Day

On May 1st, the rest of the world celebrates the Labor Day holyday. In Rome, for example, there is always a big concert in Piazza San Giovanni. This year, the hundreds of thousands of people were in a particular jolly mood. Just a couple of days ago, the new speakers of the House and of the Senate were elected. Fausto Bertinotti, leader of Rifondazione Comunista, is the new speaker of the House. Woo hoo!

A leftist coalition won elections in Italy for the first time in 1996. In 1998, Rifondazione Comunista, already led by Bertinotti, made the government fall in a vote of confidence. Another government was sort of put together, but then the coalition lost the 2001 elections, as expected. At the time, I resolved I would never, ever vote for that party (I had not, in 1996, and did not in 2001) until Bertinotti would step down. I am not, however, good with resolutions. Lately, Rifondazione has been the only party in Italy to say something leftist about women, civil rights, immigrants, foreign policy, respecting the Constitution, and so on, and I would have voted for them if I had not lost my absentee ballot.

Anyway, here in the US we do not celebrate communist holydays, so yesterday was a day like any other Monday in Berkeley: faculty lunch, teaching about PCP, attending the theory seminar, and so on.

There was, however, something special going on. New immigration regulations are being proposed that, among other things, would make it a felony to assist or shelter an illegal immigrant. This means, for example, that if your boyfriend/girlfriend is an illegal immigrant, and you live together and share the rent etc., then you are liable to a five years sentence in a federal prison. Unless, that is, you report your boyfriend/girlfriend and have him/her deported. Now, what a movie about longing you could get from this story …

May 1st was a day of strike and protests against these new regulations. The main event in Berkeley was due to start at noon in Sproul plaza. I hanged out there around 11:30. There was a group performing a traditional native central-American dance, and a big crowd all around.

Inevitably, an older white man with a long beard (the type we affectionately call “aging hippie”) came with a Palestinian flag. This mixing of messages is very Bay Area. During Critical Mass, the event on the last Friday of each month when large groups of bicyclists take over the streets, many people used to bike with signs that read “No blood for oil,” which kind of makes sense, but also “End racism now.” Biking against racism? Driving is so white?