Is something more made in America?

There are times in all of our lives when a revelation occurs or a light bulb lights up in our head sending a message that makes us sit down and take note.

For me, this happened recently while taking out my clothes for the day. Looking at the manufacturing labels on my clothes, I realized that they were apparently more traveled than I was.

My outfit of the day featured a University of Michigan (NCCA approved product) that came to me from Pakistan (Wonder how many Go Blue panels are in this factory?), My all-American Wrangler jeans were straight from Mexico and my socks came from Bangladesh. I was a little surprised the socks didn’t have holes as it is a long “hike” to Manistee.

In keeping with this format, my Nike Air Monarch tennis shoes that came from this great company in the United States, based on those worn by basketball legend and American Michael Jordan, were from… China.

It makes you wonder why former great NBA basketball player Yao Ming, originally from China, isn’t the athletic figure who approves of the shoes, because that would almost make more sense. Of course, most Americans wouldn’t buy Air Ming shoes.

Even the label on my underwear has proven that we get more than avocados from Mexico.

Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I thought the only thing in this set that was made in America was me.

Over the years one of my hobbies has been collecting t-shirts, and I’m ashamed to admit there are 94 in my closet, including those from sports teams, from universities, vacation spots and more. So when this obsession with where things were made started, I looked at the labels and was amazed to find that 92 of them weren’t made in America.

It was like the United Nations of t-shirt makers because there were some from Honduras, Mexico, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Haiti, China, India, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Thailand in the mix.

What was interesting was that the only two among the US made group were the ones that were purchased from Kmart when it was located in Manistee. Remember how everyone laughed at people who wore clothes bought from Kmart? Well it looks like they were making some of their stuff right here in America instead of paying peanut wages all over the world.

The saddest part is probably a T-shirt with an American flag on the front that I bought several years ago for July 4th and which was made in India. It makes you want to hum “God Bless America”, doesn’t it?

Even my t-shirts and baseball caps from major league baseball teams like the Tigers, Yankees and Red Sox who play the sport known as the Great American Hobby came from Bangladesh and Honduras. I guess nothing is sacred anymore.

Some garments tried to hide the fact with delicate labeling like my Bass outdoor gear pants that said “GH Bass Co. of Maine since 1876” in bold type and then in much smaller so called made in Bangladesh type. Interesting… isn’t it? I wonder if Bangladesh, Maine is north or south of Bangor?

It is obvious that companies manufacture these products in countries where they can pay very low wages and increase their profit margins. It’s disappointing when you think about how many of them got their start in this country where their brand gained recognition using American workers before moving elsewhere.

It also makes you think of the many items we import to this country. It’s so much more than clothes, because microchips, parts, technology, televisions, toys and just about anything you can think of come to us from other countries instead of being made in good old United States.

It’s hard not to turn on a TV (probably made in China and in short supply right now) without seeing the image of the traffic jam of container ships lined up outside Los Angeles waiting for the opportunity to unload the goods due to a lack of dockworkers. Well guess which people? These ships full of cargo do not arrive at the port in Iowa or Nebraska where they were made.

I had a bag of Idaho potatoes in my kitchen and that made me look at where they came from and luckily they are still grown in the great potato state. However, give them time and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Idaho potatoes imported from a place like Pakistan.

This freighter congestion also gave the national media an opportunity to stir up a frenzy among the American public about the massive shortages ahead in stores for the holiday season. Bottom line, it shows how there is nothing left here.

Just think that from a local perspective, many years ago Manistee was home to a shoe factory that made Manistee shoes, a shirt and underwear factory, and several manufacturers of women’s clothing like Glen of Michigan and others. We made the world famous Century boats, had a Drop Forge factory and Michigan Tool that made products.

Made in America stamped on an item meant something – a quality product.

And where are they now? Party, party and party like others across the country. It’s really sad when you think about it. If there is one lesson America should take from this episode, it is that we are reaching the point of totally relying on products made elsewhere.

When we came out of WWII, the 1950s and 1960s were a time when America became the world leader in manufacturing. But more importantly, it was things made with pride and quality. We really can’t say anymore.

That’s why it was nice to see the boats made by Manistee at Thoroughbred Boat Company’s recent Hops and Props event. Yes, it’s a small business, but you have to start somewhere to regain American pride. Hopefully the pride of American made continues to grow far beyond when I see you again on Thursday.

Ken Grabowski is the retired Associate Editor of the Manistee News Advocate who has spent over 36 years in the newspaper industry.

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