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Why Did That Bridge Collapse?



              So, it turns out that we don’t yet know how come the container ship veered off course and smashed into the Francis Scott Key bridge, but we do know how come the bridge collapsed. And the reason was because the bridge was built fifty years ago when ships carrying containers were about half as big as they are now.

              The Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, said that together the ship and its cargo load probably weighed 200  million pounds, which made the collision an ‘unimaginable event.

              What was a cargo ship the size of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier carrying which would require a vessel of such size designed to carry so much weight?

              I’ll tell you what it was carrying.

              It was carrying the same stuff which today is stored in the more than 5 billion square feet of space which Americans have rented in those walk-in storage lockers that proliferate on the edge of every urban location throughout the United States.

              A few years ago, I drove from Louisville, KY to my home outside of Springfield, MA. I had some extra time so instead of taking the interstate, I decided to take local roads and drive through the cities and towns located along my way.

              I noticed two things in the more than thirty towns in the six states (KY, WV, MD, PA, NY CT) which I drove through on my way home: a new, mega-sized Evangelical church on the outskirts of every town, and a complex containing at least a hundred walk-in lockers  on the same stretch of road.

              Why do we rent that extra storage space? Because we have already completely filled up the house, the two-car garage, and the front porch with all our useless junk.

              And since thanks to the Industrial Revolution none of us actually make the food, clothing, furniture, and every other item we use to go through an ordinary day, it takes lots of cargo ships weighing 200 million pounds to deliver all that stuff to the Wal Marts, Family Dollars, and other retail locations that we visit almost every day.

              I mean, what do you think 325 million Americans are going to do today after spending an hour in church singing Easter praises to the Almighty? Go directly home? Are you serious?

              There used to be something called Sunday blue laws – remember them? That’s right. You don’t remember when stores had to stay closed on the so-called ‘Lord’s Day’ because it was thought that spending money and thinking about the Almighty was something you just didn’t do.

              That was then, this is now. And now the United States has far and away the largest national economy of any country in the entire world because what Americans like to do more than anything else is – ready? – shop.

              But wait a minute. Those container ships aren’t carrying clothing made in some mill in North Carolina which opened up after that same clothing manufacturer closed his shop in New York City’s Garment District and moved South. The ship isn’t even carrying the cars like my Subaru which is now assembled not in Japan but in Terre Haute.

              Know what is the number one category of all the 4 trillion dollars’ worth of items that we imported last year?  The category is known as ‘computers,’ and it includes all those droids and i-phones which every twelve-year-old now has sticking out of their ears.

              The second largest category which we simply must have from overseas is ‘pharmaceuticals,’ which is not just medicines, but all the lotions and creams we rub on our skins and apply on our hair to keep us looking beautiful and young, plus all those ‘clinically tested’ pills we take every morning which make it easier to make a shit or take a pee.

              Next time you’re in Wal Mart, walk down any aisle and randomly choose ten items stacked on the display shelves. Take a look at where the items are made, because the label has to contain this information, or the item can’t be sold.

              For all the talk about how we are ‘moving manufacturing’ back to the United States, I guarantee you that nine out of those ten items were manufactured and packaged overseas. And all the crap got from there to here on a ship like the ship which demolished the Francis Scott Ket Bridge.

              Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these modern-day Luddites who believes that we should destroy all tools and machinery and go back to eating, wearing, and using only items that we can produce by hand.

              But if you think that I’m going to celebrate Easter by sitting home and quietly contemplating the meaning of life, you couldn’t be more wrong.

              There’s a new consignment shop which has just opened in a town about 30 miles from where I live, and a neighbor told me yesterday that he couldn’t believe the selection of like-new shoes they had on display for as little as $5.95. His wife bought a pair of Frye boots for twenty bucks.

              Don’t we need another pair of shoes?

             

             

             

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