November 28, 2020

Made in the USA: My quest to be a better American

A number of responsibilities are often pushed on Americans by the self-righteous patriotic crowd; a crowd that, I might add, I do not belong to. I’ve often rejected these responsibilities, which include among other things: voting, owning a gun, flying the stars and stripes so high that Jesus himself can see and buying American-made goods.

The prospect of buying an item made in the United States is not one that I’ve rejected out of spite, but out of practicality. I bought a Japanese car because it was overwhelmingly more reliable than any American-made model, and I bought a German car because it was engineered better than anything to roll out of an American factory. My clothes are sourced from retailers with factories in China, Bangladesh and Mauritius because they aren’t as demanding on my college-status wallet.

I’ve repressed guilt for years by constantly reminding myself how practical I was being. It was a system that worked perfectly until last month, when I bought a pair of shoes.

The shoes in question are, without a doubt, the best pair of shoes I’ve ever owned. The New Balance 1400s, dubbed “Evergreen” by New Balance, are covered in soft, dark teal suede, and have a blue leather “N” stitched on the side. They’re classic sneakers, and more importantly, beyond comfortable. The absolute best feature — they’re made in America.

I didn’t buy the shoes for that reason; I just liked the way they looked. In retrospect, I’m guessing that’s due to the excellent construction and quality materials — and price — that “made in America” status implies.  The sneakers weren’t exactly cheap; a pair of 1400s typically sells for $150. You pay a premium for American-made New Balances. A similar-looking pair of Chinese-made sneakers sells for $60. But the extra cost is worth it. Have I mentioned how comfortable they are?

I’ve become more confident since I started wearing my shoes. I feel like a contributing member of American society each time I go out in them. With my newly instilled confidence, I decided to take a second look at what the pro-American goods crowd is really all about. After looking at a number of websites, I became concerned.

On the surface, the pro-American goods crowd hails the ideas of economic growth, which is a very worthwhile reason, particularly due to the recession. However, I noticed the root of the patriotism was often hostility towards foreign countries. One website, madeinusaforever.com, is a marketplace for items made in the USA. The site promotes the quality of American-made goods, however, the founder’s blog is dedicated to bashing any and all foreign countries. Isn’t there a difference between patriotism and elitism?

I quickly realized I had no interest in being an extremist who attempts to buy everything from American manufacturers.  But I think we all could try putting a little more effort into buying American, for the right reasons: quality, knowing your money isn’t supporting deplorable labor conditions, economic contribution to the United States and the way our sneakers feel so damn comfortable.

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