We Will Lose Ourselves
I am one of “those” people who routinely use the social networking tool twitter. To be honest, I use it more to feel the pulse of America than to deceive myself into thinking that it will sell a lot of books. Right now, I am feeling an angry pulse, especially when some people become incensed at me for suggesting that Americans at least consider buying American-made products.
One woman recently “tweeting,” berated me about my position by suggesting: If I don’t buy my daughter something made in China, she’ll have nothing to play with!
I have given her comment a lot of thought. As the author of Made Here, Baby! where I interviewed well more than 500 American manufacturing companies, I cannot agree that her daughter will have nothing to play with. However, I am not naïve to the fact that our politicians, both Left and Right have done almost everything in their power to strip of our country of its ability to make things.
The CPSIA is a new twist, perhaps, but it follows decades upon decades of a mindset that says Americans “can’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t” produce innovative, quality, and safe items. Every piece of legislation in regard to manufacturing incentives since WWII, and endorsed by both parties was designed to reward multi-nationals for chasing manufacturing away from America.
The woman was partially correct: chances are that as her daughter grows older, she’ll be unable to play with toys made in America. We’ve abandoned our industries. We can’t even buy an American-made stroller or baby bottle, let alone an American-made computer, mechanical toy, or interactive video game. It’s not that the Chinese or Indians or Mexicans or Vietnamese make things better than we do; it’s that we’ve allowed them to do so with our blessings. We continue to create all kinds of incentives for them at precisely the time when up to 10 percent of our friends and neighbors are out of work.
I might add that I’ve nothing against factory workers from other countries, especially as I am person who has worked in factories. I feel sorry for many of these workers; in order for their managements to produce as cheaply as they do, the workers are brutalized and underpaid and are often forced to work in dangerous conditions.
Though an Army veteran, though the son of a woman who built fighter planes in WWII, I am not one of those fire and venom spewing flag wavers. Politically I am a very neutral voter, voting on issues rather than pretty faces.
In interviewing companies for my book, I felt a deep, gut level sense of patriotism rush over me. Many people I interviewed expressed very strong views of both the Left and Right and I didn’t flinch. In fact, it made me happy that people who make things represent such diversity. Underneath the politics I heard other things: pride, courage, dedication, and love. This is especially true where Americans connect closely with their heart and hands to produce kid’s products.
The Americans who make products with their hands are in danger of becoming extinct. Amazingly, it is not the fault of woman who asked me the question who will be responsible (indeed the woman makes apparel here in America!), nor some multi-national “suit,” but by the very people we have elected to represent us.
If the CPSIA is fully enacted without modification and moderation what will we really lose? According to the person who is worried about her daughter’s toys, we won’t lose much. However I believe we will lose a great deal more than just things, I believe we will lose ourselves.
When American companies can no longer make things, and no longer dream the American dream, how long will it be until pride and courage begin to fade?
In my book, I talk about how my mom (she’s 91 now) would gently touch the fighter planes she was working on, and would pray for the brave men who would fly those planes into battle. At the end of the day she knew she had made something with love along with everything else. If the CPSIA is fully enacted, will we lose some of our love as well?
I believe so. I know so.
Bruce H. Wolk
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