The Spirit of America: From Self-Reliance to Self-Storage

“Today, we live in the richest country in the history of the world, but that reality means little because much of that wealth is controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time.”—Bernie Sanders

Fullscreen capture 2015-08-021I went to a self-storage facility with my father-in-law today, in Emerson’s home state of Massachusetts (“The Spirit of America”). With all four kids out of the house, my wife’s parents are downsizing; and, as a consequence, they don’t have nearly enough space for all of their stuff, despite the fact that they’ve had a number of yard sales, and they’ve insisted that their kids come and collect all that stuff they’ve been storing, more or less indefinitely, chez mom and dad. For my wife, this involved the repatriation of a number of nostalgia-soaked artifacts from the Before John Era (c. 5 B.J.), such as a collection of beautiful letters from her first love.

I’m no stranger to self-storage facilities. I worked for a moving company every summer for years back in the day, and we moved stuff into or out of self-storage facilities from time to time. But things have changed. Big time. The self-storage industry has grown exponentially in the last two decades. Used to be that the only people who used self-storage facilities were people who were going through major transitions of some kind: e.g., people who were downsizing now that the kids were all grown up (like my in-laws), people who were moving overseas for work, people who were storing their recently deceased mother’s stuff, etc. But that’s no longer the case. People my age, people in the middle of this divine comedy, are renting out storage space, and lots of it. Why? Because they don’t have room for all of their stuff. Where’s most of this stuff made? Not in America.

Now I forgot to mention an important detail: as we were pulling up to the self-storage facility, my father-in-law mentioned that the building was once a factory, a factory that he and his wife (my mother-in-law) worked at in the 1970s. The factory was owned and operated by Tucker Manufacturing. They did injection molding and they paid very well. What’s more, they were super busy: the factory was open 24-hours/day. That’s three 8-hour shifts per day. These were good jobs. With great benefits. Plenty of vacation time. And these were American jobs. Good American jobs. And they’re gone. Where? Probably to places like China. Those factories send cheap stuff back to the States, where consumers buy it at Walmart. They’ve apparently bought so much of this cheap crap that they can’t even fit it all into their houses. The insanity of this situation is maddening. Emerson must be turning over in his grave! When did the United States go from being a country filled with proud workers who make stuff to a country filled with indebted out-of-work consumers who store stuff?

I just finished reading Stephen Ambrose’s Eisenhower: Soldier and President (1991), a biography I’ve been meaning to read for years. Hard to believe that Ike was a two-term Republican president. Today’s GOP wouldn’t touch a man like him with a ten-foot pole. By today’s GOP standards, he’s a flaming socialist. The kingmakers and puppetmasters of the Democratic Party would, in all likelihood, extend him an equally chilly reception. On virtually every single issue, Eisenhower’s position is significantly to the left of Hillary Clinton and more or less indistinguishable from that of Bernie Sanders. If this isn’t definitive proof of climate change, I don’t know what is.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

p.s. If you’re colorblind, there’s really no way to tell the difference between a Bernie Sanders clip and a Frank Capra clip on YouTube.

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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