The Chinese Handkerchief Trick

IMG_0067I’ve invented a magic trick. I did not get this out of a magic book but, rather, invented it on my own. I’m very proud of it. Here’s how it goes: I take a plastic white Bic lighter and put it in my pocket. Now I take my new blue handkerchief with the traditional paisley design and put it in the same pocket. Now, what you do is close your eyes for, like, a week. Now you open your eyes, I withdraw the Bic lighter, and the previously white lighter is now blue! Ta da!

Yes, I was as amazed as you would have been had you been standing here watching me perform this fantastic trick. When I first noticed this magical transformation of the Bic lighter, I thought, “Wow, I wonder if the dye in this thing is as toxic as it is unstable.” I unfurled the handkerchief to see where it was made, knowing full well already where that was. But imagine my surprise when I saw in proud and bold print “Made In The U.S.A.” I knew we Americans had been coloring cotton since before the Revolutionary War, and I was under the impression that we had this process mastered which is why were able to next tackle the steam locomotive and whistling tea kettle (probably not in that order though). So I was taken aback, to say the least, upon seeing that we still hadn’t gotten this dyeing business down. But then I looked closer. and in teeny-tiny, itty-bitty print right underneath “Made In The U.S.A.” it said “with imported material.” So, the textile mills and all the workers are in China, but the homeless person who was given a pair of scissors to cut a thousand square yards of cheaply made cloth into 14-inch squares lives right here. So, made in America. There you go.

I am constantly on the prowl for anything made in America. I’m willing to spend more to support American industry. And the reason I feel so strongly about supporting American industry is because I feel it compensates for when I go to the pet store and buy cat food and the cashier points out the little question under my purchase total which she then reads to me saying, “Would you like to contribute to animal welfare?” And I say, “I just did,” and I take the bag from her and leave; and the fact that I never put money in the Santa Claus bucket; nor give out candy on Halloween; nor say polite things abut the poor. Yes, this is why I support American industry–basically to avoid getting a visit from Jacob Marley’s ghost on Christmas Eve.

But in my ongoing search for things American there is no end to the con job being perpetrated upon us by the spin monkeys of industry who are eager to unload their Chinese-made inventory. I was in Home Depot looking for a wide bucket that you could fit a normal broad-head mop in. And I found one, several actually. But what caught my eye on one in particular were the words “in the U.S.A!” Closer inspection of this proud statement allowed me to see that it said “Assembled in the U.S.A!” No doubt this bucket contract paid off in spades for both members of the American Handle Attachers Union.

Another favorite hoodwinking that I see all the time, and I’m sure you do too, is “Engineered In The U.S.A!” This means the company hired an American who owns their own ruler and mechanical pencil to draw their product, then they sent the drawing to a penal colony in Szechuan province for the actual construction.

Even when the distributor of random crap is not being totally dishonest about saying in what quality-control-challenged country (China) their product was made in, they’ve come up with this ingenious idea of telling you where it was made in a language you don’t understand. Like French. Or if you live in France, English, I assume. For the longest time I thought “Fabrique en Chine” meant “Fabric May Go In Machine,” meaning it didn’t have to be hand washed, which for me was a big inducement to buy it. But then I saw the same tag show up on hammers and I realized I had been misled.

So now that we are aware of this chicanery, how might we benefit from knowing it? Actually, we can’t. The main reason we can’t is because we have people like the CEO of Walmart, Arnold “The Icepick” Provolone, making grand pronouncements, such as that made in 2015, that “We will be more than happy to buy from American manufacturers if they offer us the same price as the foreign competitors.” Well, that’s saintly. What Arnold is saying is that if the price is the same, and somebody can get the product to Walmart faster–based on the fact that it doesn’t have to cross the ocean, which also means thirty percent of the cargo won’t be rotted from mold–Walmart will support American industry. God bless them. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen since our people here are paid $9 an hour and the people over there are paid in sesame seeds.

On New Year’s Eve of 2016, I made my first and only New Year’s resolution. I vowed to buy American or do without. At the end of the year all I’d been able to purchase was a garden hose and gum. So I’m afraid I’m going to have to throw in the towel on my Buy American Only campaign. But how do I, and you, faced with a dearth of American-made goods from which to choose, avoid having to buy terrible Chinese stuff that too often has the life expectancy of a mayfly and smells like the exhaust pipe on an idling UPS truck? (really, how do you make a basketball smell bad?)

I have a plan. You can try it too. Buy things made in Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Taiwan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Mexico. They’re darn proud of the stuff they make and they’ll tell you straight up where it came from. And not only will you be raising their standard of living, you’ll be doing a huge service to the Chinese people too by helping to clean up the air in Beijing by eventually causing the collapse of their industrial revolution. Some day those Chinese people will thank you. At least the ones that make it into their thirties. This should also bode well for the people of North Korea when the Chinese economy fails and China is forced into cutbacks, meaning they will no longer be able to afford to keep a pet country, and so will have to take Kim Jong-un out to the woods and let him go free. This will result in all the other North Koreans becoming free as well. I don’t know about you, but this is the route I’m taking going forward as I feel it’s the right thing to do. I’d like to think it will help. It may or may not. But if it doesn’t change the world at least the effort will prevent me from having to stay up all night being lectured by three holier-than-thou ghosts on Christmas Eve for not giving out candy to poor children and their pets on Halloween.

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