My buddy Paul Williams posted a simple comment on social media noting that we should try harder to buy American products, not as retaliation against China or other countries, but because it’s good for our country. Basically, let’s focus positive things, not negative ones.
I was a disheartened by some of the comments. To paraphrase: “It’s too hard.” “It’s too expensive.” “It’s the corrupt government’s fault.” “It’s the greedy businesses fault.” “It’ll never happen.”
I consider myself to be an optimist, with contrarian tendencies. I’ve always thought that part of our DNA as a nation was the ability to achieve seemingly impossible things, especially when our back was against the wall. That optimism – and a slight radioactive glow – is probably a side effect of growing up in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Oak Ridge did not exist. There were a few dozen families and some farm animals living on the 85 square miles (about 2 Walt Disney Worlds) that would become the city of Oak Ridge.
About 45-months later, a B-29 Superfortress bomber flew over Hiroshima, Japan, and dropped “Little Boy,” an atomic bomb filled with Uranium-235 that had been enriched in the laboratories at Oak Ridge as part of the Manhattan Project.
In less than 4 years, our grandparents’ generation had transformed a rural area of East Tennessee into a city of 75,000 people, with housing, 300 miles of road, sewer, 17 restaurants, 10 schools, a library, 7 theaters, recreational facilities, 13 grocery stores, a symphony orchestra and church services for 17 denominations. And that was only the the secondary stuff.
The primary mission in Oak Ridge was to enrich enough uranium and plutonium to fuel an atomic bomb. That had never been done in the history of man. Our grandparents had to invent and build machines to do this, and then they had to build giant structures to put those machines in, including the K-25 facility, the world’s largest building (you could put about 3 Empire State Buildings inside it).
I’m amazed at what our grandparents accomplished in LESS THAN 4 YEARS in my childhood hometown, but Oak Ridge was not an outlier. This was happening all over America. Here in Sanford, my adult hometown, the Navy announced in April of 1942 that an air station would be built here with housing and facilities for 1,800 enlisted men and officers. On Nov. 3 Navy brass officially commissioned the base and opened for business.
That’s 7 months, for those of you trying to do the math in your head.
So when I see and hear people say it’s too hard to buy American, or we can’t manufacture things any more, I think about our grandparents. They overcame the Great Depression, won a world war, sent men to the moon and brought them back, and they did it all without an incredibly powerful computer in their pocket.
A computer we use today to bitch about how hard it is to buy American or how it’s impossible to manufacture things in the U.S.anymore.
It’s crazy times we’re living, but are things any harder now than they were for our grandparents? We’ve got unique challenges, no doubt, but we also have amazing advantages, advantages we’re wasting with a bunch of whining and political finger-pointing.
Did our grandparents accomplish impossibly hard things by spending endless hours writing letters to the editor (the social media timeline of the day) blaming FDR (Obama, Hilary, et al.) or Herbert Hoover (Trump. McConnell, et al.) or Huey Long (Bernie Saunders) or William Randolph Hearst (Rupert Murdoch)?
It seems to me they spent a lot more of their energy and resources actually doing stuff. Let’s focus more on building things, beating viruses, supporting local – supporting each other. It’s hard, no doubt, but our grandparents already proved we can accomplish amazing things.
Will we, though?