Made in the USA: Each of us a piece of somewhere else
You don’t need me to remind you that tomorrow is a significant day in America’s history and that many Americans will spend their time remembering.
If you’ve forgotten the significance of tomorrow, the media (including this media) will pound it into your head for the next 24 to 48 hours, “Lest We Forget.”
And so I thought it only appropriate to share an American story on the eve of the anniversary of that historic and tragic day.
It’s a story about 3,000 plastic American flags we purchased to hand out during Sunday’s Constitution Day parade in Nevada City. We thought it might be a good time to hand out American flags, considering the parade had something to do with the Constitution and that the parade fell so close to Sept. 11.
The 3,000 American flags arrived in the mail last week, and I pulled one out to give it a couple of good waves. It’s difficult to wave a plastic flag, but they only cost 75 cents per dozen from a company called “U.S. Toys Co., Inc.”
It’s the thought that counts.
In the middle of my flag waving, I noticed there was some blue lettering along the inside near the little wooden stick. Even with my eyes I could read the blue letters clearly an arm’s length away: “Made In China,” they proclaimed.
“Oh, my God!” I screamed. “We have 3,000 American flags that were made in China! Stop the presses!”
I quickly remembered that stopping the presses would not make the 3,000 American flags made in China disappear, so I called one of my managers into my office.
“We have a problem,” I told him. It’s always good for a manager to say “we” when referring to a problem. It softens the blow when you eventually tell him that it’s really his problem. I went on to explain the fact that the American flags we were preparing to hand out to red-blooded Americans had been made by Communists working under the shadow of Mao himself.
“But they were only 75 cents per dozen,” the manager reminded me. “You didn’t say where you wanted us to get the flags. You just said to make sure they’re cheap.”
I couldn’t argue that one. I probably needed to be a little more specific, but I never really imagined that a company called “U.S. Toys” would sell plastic American flags made in China. The manager showed me the catalog and on page 134, just below the $18.50 American-made “Balloon Kit,” I noticed that the American flags were broken down by “Imported” and “Made in America.” The “Made in America” American flags were cloth and sold for $5.75 per dozen, or 600 percent more than the plastic Chinese models.
“Good choice,” I told the manager. “You saved us $1,249.50.”
The manager left my office and I began to ponder my flag dilemma. And the more I pondered, the more I began to realize the stupidity of my concern. “The flag is a symbol,” I thought. “It’s a symbol for one of the true melting pots on earth.”
I imagined a warehouse filled with Chinese workers busily attaching plastic American flags to little wooden sticks. I wondered what they thought as they watched these red, white and blue symbols of freedom pass down the assembly line, eventually earmarked for a place where homes sell for more money than everyone in that warehouse combined earns in a lifetime. To a place where protesters are allowed to carry signs ranting about anything from whales to wars to trees. To a place where folks spend long evenings on tree-lined patio decks sipping fine wine while discussing oppression. To a place where people are allowed to complain about America’s various warts, while enjoying her fruit. To a place many of those Chinese factory workers would love to call home, if given half a chance to get here.
In a column in the Weekly Standard, humorist Larry Miller reminded us that America is not perfect, but it’s still very popular. “The plain fact is,” he wrote, “that our country has, with all of our mistakes and blunders, always been and always will be, the greatest beacon of freedom, charity, opportunity and affection in history. If you need proof, open all the borders on Earth and see what happens. In about half a day, the entire world would be a ghost town, and the United States would look like one giant line waiting to see ‘The Producers.'”
As expected, we did hear a few grumblings along the parade route Sunday from people offended by the Chinese-made American flags.
They probably just forgot, as I did, that much of America was made in China. Just as much of it was made in Ireland, England, Japan, Italy, Germany, Poland, Kenya and every other pocket of our planet.
Anyone needing further proof of that should simply scan the list of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. Many of those victims were, in fact, Made In China.
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. Contact him at 477-4299, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.
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