Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May Day

May Day, May Day! To some that's a wonderful time to dance around a Maypole and celebrate spring, but to others it's the ultimate cry for help.  In this instance, it's a little of both.

In the spirit of the Spring Fairy, Gal Friday (GF) drove me to the mall so I could purchase some new duds...hopefully, somewhat brighter than my normal khaki and other earth tones.  So this is a celebration of spring, right?  This is a good thing, right?  OK, I'm ready to let the moths out of my wallet; go for the gusto and grab the brass ring. The only requirement I mention to Gal Friday is I buy American.  One would think this wasn't asking too much.  One would think not!

Willing to enhance my wardrobe with a color infusion that would make any peacock proud,  I wheel to the men's department of an American department store; GF is beaming.  She coaxes me over to a display of short sleeve summer pullover shirts that dazzle the eyes.  I used to refer to them as golf shirts, but I don't know if that's politically correct anymore.  They've got pink, white, a bright red, a brighter yellow and the brightest royal blue I've ever seen on any color chart.  That's just the first shelf.  The lower one houses some shirts of green, turquoise, peach and some color I don't know how to describe.  This place looks like an explosion in a fireworks factory.  However, undeterred, she began a relentless "oohs and aahs, wouldn't you look good in this?"  Knowing I don't look particularly good in anything, I mumble something like "yes, if the lights are out."   Of course, not wanting to dampen her enthusiasm, I mumbled softly enough so her delicate ears didn't hear.  Sometimes I'm not as dumb as I look -- sometimes.

Without delay, she heads for the cherry red shirt.  I'm thinking red badge of courage or maybe the scarlet A.  She points out it's an American company label.  I casually ask, "Does the label say made in America?"  Her rejoinder is like questioning my lineage, "If it's an American brand, I would think it's made in this country."  She didn't complete the sentence with "you fool", but the implication hung in the air.

Being a kind, considerate and patient person, she begrudgingly checked out the label...made in Pakistan.  Hmm.  Next she grabbed the yellow one that reminded me of one of those atrocious bright yellow cars now whirling along our highways.  You don't need headlights to see them at night...made in Cambodia.  One of GF's eyebrows begins to rise.

She doesn't grab the royal blue garment, but instead, handles it like it has scales...made in Egypt.  I figure at least we're getting closer to home.  Regardless, up goes eyebrow number two.  I notice her jaw tighten while picking up the white shirt...made in Bangladesh.  At this point, Gal Friday is not too happy and, to be honest, even Ed, the cynic, is a little surprised.

Disgusted with the reality of shirt manufacturing, she leads me to the section of shorts.  We used to call these Bermuda shorts, but again, I'm a little gun shy about committing a political boo-boo, or much worse, a fashion faux pas so I'll just call them shorts.  While I chose a nondescript pair of khakis, she selects a pair of plaid pants that remind me of some old golf slacks of the Sixties.  The only thing missing is a white patent leather belt.  The khaki shorts...made in Viet Nam and the multi-colored plaid ones...made in India.

Just so you know, I'm not going to go bananas now, but does this really make sense?  Four shirts and two pair of shorts by American manufacturers made in six foreign countries doesn't seem logical.  Now I'm certainly not an economic advisor, but wouldn't it be nice if these items were made between the Atlantic and Pacific in our good ole US of A?  Oh, I know about free trade and world markets, but I've seen the real devastation of unemployment in the textile industry first hand.  I've witnessed the closing of mills that absolutely shut down small mill villages and tore families apart.  It breaks my heart to ride through ghost towns that two decades ago flourished.  The people of these mills were proud of their finished products and. if you noticed, they had reason to be.  Garments fit with consistency; colors didn't fade like today's; their looms gave us better quality cloth.  In general, the American textile workers gave us a superior product. 

Unemployment is a dangerous thing.  When people don't work, they don't buy.  Unemployment causes our governments to grant more to entitlement programs.  People who are homeless and jobless often turn to crime by necessity, which also means more money spent on non-productive services.  All these factors work against improving our gross national product, which, in turn, ends up pushing our national debt to unbelievable proportions. 

It's true some giant companies manufacture their goods cheaper using off shore labor, but the end product is also of cheaper quality.  Who are these American companies going to sell their products to if people can't afford to buy them?  Most civilized nations place embargoes on American products shrinking our foreign markets.  Many old line companies in our country are now gone since we opened the floodgates.  Don't let anyone kid you, recession is a direct result of unemployment.  Many politicians and economists candy coat the situation and expound on all kinds of consequential factors, but the principal reason we are in trouble as a nation is due to unemployment.  Of course, greed runs a close second.

So the next time you wander into the store to buy something, check to see if it's made in America.

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