It’s Made In China

Written By: Barry Barnes

On a sunny afternoon a few weekends ago I worked outside. A neighbor approached me to let me know that his elderly father’s skittish dog has a propensity to run away for days when he hears loud noises. I had made an awful racket that day, so I felt bad. I knocked on doors ahead of time to let folks know that I’d be making noise, but I had missed the old timer’s place. An apology was in order.

An 83 year old named Rodger stepped outside when I knocked. We elbow-bumped, stepped back, and I apologized. He asked that I call ahead next time. No damage done this time because he had brought the dog indoors as soon as my hammering began. He wrote down a landline telephone number and handed it to me for next time. Problem solved, and a neighborly relationship emerged. We got to chewin’ the cud in his driveway.

Though I am in this area often, I am not a local. Rodger lived here all of his life. Turns out that this sleepy town changed a lot in the old man’s time. In Rodger’s day there were factories and mills. He worked in one of the mills. One day he went to work and found that he didn’t have a job anymore. The operation could not compete with similar products made in China and imported to American retail stores.

Worse still, Rodger’s company sold the manufacturing equipment, disassembled it, and shipped it to China. I suppose that the cost of firing the Mainers, disassembling the equipment and shipping it to China, then reassembling it so that the Chinese could make the widgets instead, then sending those widgets back to the US for Rodger and his newly unemployed friends to buy was deemed cost-effective. After he lost his job at the mill, Rodger found work driving a school bus. I wonder how many other Maine men with young families found stable work again? How long did it take? Did they have to leave town? Leave friends and family behind? Sell the house or the farm? Move to Portland or Massachusetts to find dwindling manufacturing opportunities, competing for stagnant wages with the “new Americans”?

Fast-forward, and Mainers are still working in paper mills and a few other industries, thank goodness. There is opportunity, though it is few and far between across the rural state. However right now there are no respirators or medical masks for workers to wear amidst the creeping viral pandemic. Why not? Well… the Personal Protective Equipment is made in China.

5 thoughts on “It’s Made In China

  • April 18, 2020 at 6:35 PM
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    Great piece. While this is a geographically-specific example, it reflects a situation shared across the country. I, for one, miss having Americans build things for Americans…and the world. Perhaps the current situation with COVID-19 might give the right people pause and generate renewed interest in making things ourselves again. We need to “do” for ourselves instead of paying someone else to “do” for us.

    Reply
  • April 18, 2020 at 11:24 PM
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    We have a goal.

    Years ago, when we were Gen X nihilists in the 1990’s, we didn’t have a conflict, we weren’t aware of our enemies.

    Now everything is in sharp focus. We know what’s good and what isn’t. Our work is cut out for us.

    Thank you for this piece of history, Barry. We will bring back manufacturing, at least on a smaller scale. But it’ll be better than what we have now

    And we won’t pollute our fishing rivers, either!

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  • April 19, 2020 at 10:57 PM
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    This hits close to home. I have no interest in thoroughly doxxing myself, but someday I will I think show you around my parts. We will have a long talk, you and I.

    The talk of mills strikes a cord. I’m not a Miller, I’m a Woodworker. But I remember, even as little as twenty years ago when I was a more benign and micro Seax, Southern Maine was a different place.

    Mill Towns all had men with a particular cadence, a unique Maine dialect in no small part influenced by Irish and French contributions. Most of the men on my road had that accent, until they died out and were replaced by folk from Away.

    In twenty years the school system has successfully turned young Mainers into New Hampshireites, bland and indistinct. No accent, nothing to actively seperate them from the unsightly bulk of the ‘new American.’

    With the disintegration of our personalities came the reliance on substances much worse than Mr. Boston.

    But that’s enough out of me. The Yellow Menace is definitely a problem, alongside that electric you know who in the living room.

    I’m going to offer you a suggestion, if you’ve read this much of my old man prep rant. Seek out John Q Publius over at the anatomically correct banana. He has a lot to say about Dirigoy interests. He might be happy to host this with his blog roll. Couldn’t hurt. Exposure helps.

    I’ll take a moment to shill for myself here, as your article is in a roundabout way related to a topical concern of my own.

    https://spergbox.wordpress.com/2019/11/02/tactical-southern-mainerism/

    Anyway. I enjoyed the read, as our official curmudgeonly Dirigoy.

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  • April 21, 2020 at 2:03 PM
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    My hometown is a manufacturing town and they broke the union in the 1980’s. They have been steadily replacing workers with “new Americans” and wages have been stagnant since the mid 1980’s. Now my once safe and prosperous town is a multicultural hellscape with over 37 languages spoken at the public schools. Crime is rampant and social trust is non existent.

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  • April 23, 2020 at 4:19 AM
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    This hits all too close to home here in the rust belt. Factories left abandoned to rot like colossal skeletons of rust and iron, the communities that sprung up around them fairing no better as the erosion of time and the decay of our nation creep in moreso year after year.

    This is the story of modern America. Will it be its epitaph?

    Reply

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