losing my religion
i spent a couple years working for a job training partnership act agency that trained "dislocated workers" in the 1980s. i traveled to burgs such as kenosha (home of american motors!) and janesville, feeling a little like michael moore goin' back to flint, michigan. i understand globalization and i know the world is flat, but i still like to buy locally whenever i can, especially when local carmakers and suppliers are struggling to fund pensions for my family members. just down the road from the minnversity, one of the oldest ford plants in the country will soon close; about 2,100 of my neighbors will be out of good-paying career jobs, unless the world suddenly rediscovers the ford ranger (motto: yup, still makin' em!). i mean, they made their own windshield glass there and twain's river still powers the facility.
u.s. cars are a deviant taste these days, at least among professors. we go "reliable" and drive accords, passats, and camrys; we go "upscale" with audis, volvos, and benzes; or, we go "green" with public transportation, bicycles, and hybrids. but we don't go "american." u.s. cars are for nostalgic old curmudgeons, unsophisticated rubes, and jingoistic red-staters (hmm, which one am i?). but my parents drove me home from the hospital in a beautiful turquoise chevy biscayne and they passed on a quasi-religious belief that buying "american" cars was a moral imperative rather than an economic choice. i know that the styling and technology are a half-step behind the world and i know that most global automakers are now assembling cars in the u.s. (albeit with less generous wages and benefits than the big three had historically provided) and i know that henry ford was no champion of diversity and i know that "big auto" has only itself to blame for this mess. i know all of the rational reasons but still can't overcome the emotional ones. i mean, they're closing the st. paul ford plant! so try to understand, and remember that i don't criticize your religion.
my faithful old jeep hails from toledo ohio. now a cranky teenager, she is fast succumbing to time and corrosion, leaving me i'm in a bit of a pickle. i haven't found a new u.s. car that i like as much as my iconic l'il cherokee but i've got to do something. old red has no airbags, an intermittent electrical system, and goes too fast for the soon-to-be-new-driver in the house. my needs are simple: traction enough to find purchase in the minnesota snow, space enough for a 6'4" (and growing) dude in the back seat, tough enough to survive a daily I-35 commute, nimble enough to execute u-turns and parallel park in tight urban spaces, and efficient enough so that i'm not personally prolonging the war. i can't see the kids squeezed into a ranger, but i've got a couple other prospects. i could go for another american icon -- it couldn't be that bad in the snow -- or maybe something "classic" that speaks to my inner romantic space-cadet or fragile male ego. as long as i'm waxing iconic, maybe i should just embrace the nostalgia altogether.