Nothing but shattered dreams

I’m taking a night off from writing about baseball tonight. It’s a combination of my team not playing and being a bit burned out on it. There is so much more to life than baseball, and I’m reminding myself of this tonight.

I took my kids to see a movie tonight. It was a fun little diversion from everyday life, and a couple of hours in the air conditioning on an unbelievably muggy day. Good family time, while they are still willing to have it. These days won’t last forever, so I have to enjoy it while I can.

As we’re driving home from the theater, a row of deserted factories caught my eye. I’ve seen them before–lots of times–but tonight they gave me food for thought, which is something I always appreciate. They seemed to be reminding me of why this country is in such awful shape.

While I don’t know when these factories were built,  it was clear that they’ve been abandoned for some time. But once they all hummed with activity. People were working hard, producing products that would be sold to other Americans. And the people who worked there fed their families, kept a home, maybe spent a week or two on vacation at this time of year. Maybe they lived near the factory, and were able to walk to work, or come home on their lunch breaks. Maybe they pulled an extra shift when they could, so that there would be extra presents under the Christmas tree, or a new color TV when they became available.  Maybe these people put their kids through school, and then retired to someplace warm when their time had come. But none of that seems to go on anymore.

The factories were shut down because whatever products they once produced can now be made by workers, probably in Asia, who will work for pennies on the dollar compared to American workers. So the factory owners closed down their operations, sent all the workers into whatever abyss lay ahead of them, and set up shop far, far away. That $25 pair of Levi’s still cost $25, but the margins were so much fatter than they ever were before. That’s good for business, but certainly not good for the people and places that were left behind.

There are now millions of Americans who once held these jobs, but can’t find a place to work anymore. Empty factories don’t provide jobs, or breathe life into the community where they are located. And the goods that these factories once produced are probably still available somewhere, but now they carry a label that reads “Made in China” or “Made in Honduras” or “Made in someplace you’ve never heard of before, but trust me, the natives will work cheap.”

So will these shuttered factories ever be opened again? I can’t see how they would be. If the “job creators” are given more money, as they always seem to want, then any jobs that they will create won’t be in the U.S.A. Too many unions, too many regulations, too many worker protections, excuse after excuse after excuse. It’s much easier to pack up and go to one of those countries where 50 cents a day is considered good money. We American consumers will just continue to buy whatever crap Wal-Mart stocks on its shelves, without the slightest thought about where and how it was made. In this sense, we’ve contributed mightily to our own decline.

With these thoughts bouncing around in my head, it rapidly went from a fun night out with the family into a more somber reflection on why we are where we are. But I needed it, and I wish that more people would reflect on these things. The movies, and “reality” TV, and nearly everything else in popular culture seems to be running contrary to that. And, without a row of deserted factories nearby, it’s unlikely that anybody would do this on their own. But perhaps they should.

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