Harlan Jacobson's 2023 Labor Day Address to the Nation

My Annual Labor Day Address to the Nation
By Harlan Jacobson
Sep 2, 2023 --

During the pre-internet days of peace and love of my hippie youth, it seemed like we had reached the end of days: social upheaval, anti-war rebellion, race riots, Richard Nixon’s stealth attacks on the election of 1972 and the constitution, on values, on race, and his perversion of law that collectively manifested in Watergate. There was a perhaps apocryphal Chinese curse back then that summarized the general tenor of the times : May you live in interesting times.

Any question that we are living in interest times again?

This is the summer in which Men stare at a bankrupt vision of themselves and the tick tock of nuclear extinction they set in motion. In Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, Man becomes speechless.

And last weekend Barbie, Greta Gerwig’s candy-colored, pink declaration of 21st Century feminist independence, passed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with $1.34 billion dollars in worldwide hard ticket box office sales. Couple that with Taylor Swift’s Eras tour being written about in better business sections everywhere as a boost to local economies, and you can feel a cultural hot wind is also blowing over the planet: that it’s time for Women to take over

I don't go to the movies over Labor Day weekend. For me, a film critic, going to movies is work -- that's a little strange but it's labor, it's what I do. I happen to like what I do, because I believe in the power of cinema to tap unerringly into the collective unconscious to reflect the undercurrent of the state of things.

Normally, I take time on Labor Day to stop work and reflect. It's a day for family and friends. My parents, who had only just met in Schroon Lake, NY, eloped to Elkton, MD on Labor Day, 1938. My brother was born in Wilkes Barre, PA a year later on Sept. 1, 1939, Labor Day weekend. Compressing irony and tragedy perhaps like no one before her, the nurse said to my mother, “Congratulations, Mrs. Jacobson, you have a beautiful baby boy, and Hitler invaded Poland.”

It’s also the anniversary of my second chance, married at a house by the sea on Cape Cod on Labor Day, 1992.

Now, like many of you I savor the last licks of summer on this Labor Day, my children having flown the coop for careers, as all three keep that appointment with the open road they so desperately wanted to take them across the light curtain to the future. Tomorrow is the past we try so hard to remember and can never forget. Again this year, that sounds like a Christopher Nolan movie.

Labor Day is the one holiday that does not force you to swear fealty to a religion, the nation, or a man—that last, never more important than now. It is about you, what you do, and with whom and for whom you do it. Labor Day is about work. Let us hope that Labor returns to the writers and actors who blow us out of our seats or tickle us pink into considering the way forward. It is so very American. And it is a rest in the rolling of the drums.

The Chinese are having their way: there is no end in sight to the interesting times we live in. You better find somebody to love.

Have a great Labor Day!

Select Read Full Review link to tune in to my address, as first broadcast on WBGO. My address to the nation follows the TIFF line up preview.