If We Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to the U.S., Do I Still Have to Put Together This Bookcase Myself? by Andy Newton


Our nation has seen considerable changes to its economic landscape over the past half century. Factories have closed their doors one after another like so many toppling dominoes, and slowly but surely the manufacturing jobs that once formed the backbone of this country and its middle class have departed from our shores. Many Americans nowadays feel that they have been left stranded and forgotten by the political elites in Washington, but it is essential that we work together to propel our society forward into the future. Through free trade and investment in higher education, we can build a new professional class founded on the financial and information sectors. Although, if we were to bring back some of those old manufacturing jobs, do you think I’d still have to put this bookcase together myself?

Because, honestly, this thing is a real pain. The instructions I found online made the whole process look relatively simple. Screw in the shelves. Hammer in the backing. Looking at all the boards and stuff now, though – I gotta say – I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here.

If we as a nation want to continue to lead the world in innovation, we cannot look back. There is no stopping progress. But, perhaps we can just press the ol’ “pause” button on progress for a little while until I can get this bookcase assembled and anchored to my living room wall.

As millions of Americans struggle to find a foothold to climb their way out of the years of hardship and austerity experienced during the Great Recession, it is only natural to yearn for more prosperous times. However, we must remember that the history of the United States has been powered by economic change. Artisanry and home economies were once swept away by the unebbing tide of the Industrial Revolution, and now, again, our country is being driven forward. Though, I would kill for even an apprentice carpenter to come in here right now and give me a hand with this thing.

Seriously, I don’t care what the directions say, constructing this bookcase is not a one-person job, and it certainly isn’t “easy to moderate difficulty level.” Look, Step 4 says to fasten top piece (E) to the upper ends of sideboards (A and B) using four 1-¾” flat head screws. But how am I supposed to hold piece (E) in place, maintain the level, AND screw it into the sideboards (A and B)? It’s like building a goddamn house of cards!

Especially with the profound demographic shifts of the past several decades, it is easy for many Americans to find a scapegoat in the proverbial “other.” Nostalgia has often exercised a strong influence on the American electorate, and some politicians have become adept at cultivating a longing for an imagined past, preying upon public anxieties about immigrants entering the country and flooding the job market with cheap labor. We need to embrace our cultural and ethnic diversity, though, if we wish to retain our society’s solid foundation. It is only through our coming together can we move forward.

However, if we’re being perfectly candid, I would gladly pay out of my own pocket for someone’s flight back to El Salvador or wherever if it meant some of those white working class Americans I’ve heard so much about would come over here to my apartment and put together this bookcase for me. At this point, I’m just really frustrated. Maybe if I pre-drill the holes in piece (E)? I should call my dad. He’s good with this kinda stuff.

Andy Newton is a writer living in Astoria, Queens. His work has been published by McSweeney’s and National Lampoon.

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