This post was inspired by one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Kirb Appeal. Kirby composed such a heartfelt post titled A Sad Story (or three). When you have some time, please stop by Kirby’s blog and check out the post. It is really very moving and will make you think.
Let me first say that this is not about being anti-foreigner or anti-trade. Trade has been a very good thing for many years. Throughout history nations have traded goods with one another. Trade comes in handy when there is something you cannot get in your country, but in another it is in abundance. What has been happening in America is that the manufacturing of goods has been shipped overseas in order to increase the bottom line of those who are already wealthy. It does not matter that doing so puts millions of Americans out of work. Now you can include services. In many instances when you call customer service you are getting a person in India. It is much cheaper to pay someone in India where the cost of living is so much lower than in America. The people are more than happy to accept a job that pays a fraction of what a company would have to pay an American because in India that fraction goes a long way to improve their quality of life. For example, in India a cell phone plan is around fourteen dollars a month. I don’t know anyway in America who has a good cell phone plan for less than one hundred dollars a month.
In Kirby’s example she talks about all the American furniture companies that were based in North Carolina. Do you remember names like Broyhill, Drexel-Heritage, and Henredon? Some of the best made furniture came right out of North Carolina. It lasted for years and could be handed down in great shape from generation to generation. If you wanted a change all you had to do was have your sofa re-upholstered in a different color or pattern. Bedroom dressers and living room tables were sturdy because they were not made of pressed wood. How they were put together also ensured that it would last for a very long time. Furniture making was an art form that those who did it for a living took pride in. I have a sofa from Thomasville that I purchased in the year 2000, a couple of years before the local store closed. I will never get rid of that sofa.
Kirby is right, we do have to stop and think when we go out and make purchases, but I wonder if we are now doing the thinking just a little bit too late. Some people have vowed never to shop in stores like Walmart ever again because just about everything in there is made in China. But honestly, everywhere you go now the products are made in mostly China. It isn’t any different if you go to another store. As a matter of fact for decades it has been very challenging to find anything made in America. We have been complacent for too long. For as many people who refuse to shop at Walmart, there are still millions going in there every day, so it is not going out of business any time soon. Walmart put a lot of local stores that were in business for years out of business all over the USA. And we as a nation collectively allowed it to happen. Those family owned businesses where we received courteous and personal treatment went out of business because we stopped going in there. Long gone are our local pharmacies and hardware stores. I remember when I was a little girl there was the local shoe repair shop where you could also get copies of keys made. But I digress. This calls for another post titled Malls and Superstores Destroyed America’s Downtown.
I remember going into a much-loved Farmers Market in Kingston, New York. I had not been there in a long time because I moved out of the area. I was surprised to see that many of the herbs were from places like Israel. A lot of the vegetables were from places like Mexico and Chile. Why are we importing vegetables and herbs that have been grown in America for hundreds of years? I wonder if Idaho potatoes are still coming from Idaho.
What really stumped me is when I used to eat fish and I would go to the supermarket looking for some in the frozen food department. The fish would be caught in say someplace off the shores of the USA, but then processed in China then brought back here and frozen for sale. HUH? Will someone please explain that to me? Fish was something that I was very leery about anyway because of all the pollution that has poisoned our oceans, rivers and lakes. Even if it was caught off the shores of America I was leery. I have not visited my homeland of Panama in a long time. When I did I always brought back fresh fish. It came fresh right out of the Pacific ocean and I would buy lots of it upon my arrival. In order to bring it back into America it had to be either cooked or frozen, so I would freeze it. It would stay frozen for two or three weeks in one of my relative’s refrigerator until it was time for me to return stateside. It was the best tasting fish and it did not smell up your kitchen while you were cooking it because it was fresh and unpolluted. I used to bring back with me as much red snapper as I could carry on board the plane. Because it had been frozen for at least two weeks it all remained frozen during the nearly five-hour plane ride. If you have never tasted fresh and unpolluted fish you don’t know what you are missing. I have no idea what the waters off the shores of Panama are like now though. I would have to assume that it is still cleaner than around here. Panama is not a place that has huge industry pouring waste into the waters, but since I have not been there in a while I don’t know the state of the oceans over there. Panama now has a large ex-patriot community, but I am digressing again.
I truly believe that America can be restored and that we can bring manufacturing back to our shores, but it takes a huge collective effort as a whole nation. And it is not only about products being made and grown in America either. We have to also demand the return of quality that used to be what you received for your money.