"With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens, a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. ...
"Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none. ...
- Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address
Labor Day is observed on the first Monday in September. It's been a federal holiday for 120 years, and it celebrates the contributions labor associations and unions have made and are making to the U.S. economy. Make no mistake about it, organized labor, on the whole, has played a major role in transforming what was for the first 150 years of its existence a country overwhelmingly agricultural into the greatest industrial power the world has ever seen.
On the whole ... remember this caveat.
The excesses of labor unions, sometimes bordering on the criminal, are all too evident even to the most casual of observers. Look no further than to the almost surreal disaster that is Detroit and other rust-belt cities and towns in the American Middle West. Labor union bosses are not responsible for all the damage done. Dishonest and incompetent public officials and their attendant bureaucracies are perhaps equally to blame, but put them together and what you have is a witches brew of corruption that sends the productive and ambitious packing, and in search of better places - like right-to-work South Carolina - to put down roots and realize the American dream.
Labor Day is considered the last holiday of summer, though on the calendar summer has yet another three weeks to run. Blame it on the sun. In the latitude in which we live, autumn does not formally begin until the 23rd of September.
In an era when children are seldom needed to assist in harvesting crops, and when almost all schools are air-conditioned, the school year begins some weeks earlier than it once did.
In the past it started the week after Labor Day. High school and college football, now played mostly under the lights rather than in the heat of the sun, already is filling the entertainment gap left by television re-runs and, worse, politicking for midterm elections that now lie only nine weeks off.
This year, Labor Day comes just one day ahead of V-J Day, a day that in our father's and grandfather's time was a sometimes solemn day commemorating the end of World War II and the many, many thousands of servicemen and women who sacrificed so much for this beloved country. This beloved country. ... It almost sounds quaint in this day and age when we so often hear charlatans, some black, some white, rant their hatred for America and what it stands for.
Labor Day ushers in a month that meteorologists call the most dangerous of the year for those of us living along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Though great tropical storms can strike here in any month, the threat is greatest in September.
There is a sweet sadness associated with summer's end. It's not likely, though, that this particular summer will be looked back to with much fondness by those at all cognizant of the horrors playing out on the world stage. A new terror state, an Islamic "caliphate," has arisen in Iraq and Syria. It poses a systemic threat to the few nominal friends we still have in the troubled Middle East, and likely very soon to the U.S. homeland.
The overthrow and murder of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi, which America facilitated, has not led to the joyful "Arab Spring" in North Africa the Obama administration initially celebrated.
Instead, it led to near total chaos and the assassination of an ambassador and three other Americans, deaths for which no one has been held accountable. Nor has the much ballyhooed "reset" with Russia produced greater stability in Eastern Europe, but something disturbingly like the situation faced while the Western world slept on the eve of WWII. Russia is on the move. Its appetite has not been sated by its earlier acquisition of the Crimea.
Meanwhile, on the home front ...
What can one make of the Obama administration's response to the recent shooting of a black 18-year-old man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.?
It requires a "willing suspension of disbelief" not to see that the president and his attorney general, despite protestations to the contrary, have placed their very large thumbs on the scales of justice to convict a policeman who has yet to be indicted much less brought to trial (except in the court of public opinion). This clearly is not the way the justice system in America is supposed to work.
Ineptitude piled upon ineptitude, failure upon failure. This is the record, the legacy, of an administration that honest history will record as one of America's very worst.
But aren't the Lowcountry sunsets glorious at this time of year?
And isn't there a hint of fall on most mornings when you go out to pick up your paper?
R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.