As I sit here in my Levis made in Bangladesh and my sneakers made in Mexico (I don’t know where my shirt was made, but the washing instructions are in Spanish) typing on my Japanese computer with a Chinese mouse and making copies on my printer made in Thailand, the thought occurred to me that there isn’t a lot of stuff made in America anymore. At least, not that I own. My mower and string trimmer are both Japanese and my car is Korean. Kind of makes me wonder what happened.
I don’t have to drive too far to pass old and shuttered mills that dot the towns of Maine. They were home to the fabrics and shoes and lumber and barrels and forged steel products that helped build a nation. Made in America meant something back then.
Somewhere in the past decades, we gave all that away. Industry moved offshore and our country closed up shop, content to buy our products from someone else. Quality gave way to cost. We could not compete with the foreign workers that earn next to nothing and labor in conditions not unlike those we endured in the early nineteen hundreds.
But here in Maine, you have but to scratch the surface to find that the work ethic is still alive and well. We may not have huge factories or even large cities. What we do have however, is the ingenuity and skills that never died. Maine workers and products are sought out because of their attention to quality. The craftsman still lives here. The shipbuilders trade is still plied along our coastline. Hand built furniture is designed and made in the woodworkers shops. Brewers craft small batch beers for our enjoyment. Log homes are manufactured here. One does not have to look far to find jewelry and small crafts created by artisans, or pottery and glass items thrown by local artists. Take a drive up the coastal route or meander through the towns and villages of central and northern Maine, and you will be rewarded with quaint treasures wrought by hand, often made in the same spot that they are sold.
In a way, what we find here is a stubbornness that refuses to let the past die completely. Through the decades as Maine has progressed, it has managed to keep the best of what once was. The pride of workmanship is palpable. The skill of the hands is still valued. The quality of the products are aggressively sought.
I don’t kid myself that we are alone. I know there are places throughout the country where the fires of creativity still smolder. Where the pride of workmanship still dwells. Small businesses and home grown industry where Made In America still means something. Perhaps one day there will be renaissance, and the value of the American worker will once again rise out the ashes. Wouldn’t that be great. I would love to send this to you on a computer that says “Proudly Made In Chicago Illinois”. Just sayin.
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