Catalyst for Change: Returning Home in Stuber’s What If Things Were Made in America Again

James A. Stuber has recently published his new book What If Things Were Made in America Again: How Consumers Can Rebuild the Middle Class by Buying Things Made in American Communities. In it, the author asks a central question that he desperately seeks to answer: “Why does it seem like everything is made somewhere else, especially China?” (PR Newswire). To even begin to answer it, we must first consider what has changed in the U.S. economy and, especially, how our attitude to our independence as a country has evolved over time. 

When constructing his argument, the author emphasizes our dependency on other countries. We see that in many ways we essentially rely on them for multiple goods. In fact, the author suggests that “… America is becoming dependent on foreign sources for strategic goods such as steel and electronics” (Stuber). We are unable to manufacture those many goods on our own. Hence, our dependency on other countries gradually develops into a habit. Eventually, we get used to relying on others for our resources. If we think about our nation today and its attitude to trade and compare it to what it used to be like in the 19th century, for instance, we would see a world of a difference. We could see that we are no longer the nation whose policy of isolationism motivated it to stay out of many an international conflict until the World Wars. Not only has our policy of isolationism shifted in the nation. We are no longer the country that is so focused on developing her economy on her own without relying on anyone else. 

As he builds his argument about our country’s dependence on other countries, Stuber implies that something must have happened to our independence. In fact, the very idea of independence seems to have slipped away from us. An isolationist policy has nothing to do with it. We have become dependent. According to Stuber, this dependence on other countries has serious consequences for us: “… [it] has led to dependency at home, as individuals, families, and communities have suffered the loss of their economic base” (PR Newswire). In fact, if we think about it, we are not independent in any sense any longer. At this point, our dependence on other countries has transferred to our dependency at home. We do not and cannot rely on ourselves anymore. Instead, ironically enough, having moved away from our fight for independence, we only ended up in a vicious cycle. Independence is now an extinct myth. 

We should now turn to another central issue at the very heart of this book: sovereignty. We can see that, just like with independence, our attempt to achieve sovereignty has backfired. Not only are we not the sovereign or leading power in any sense, but the reality is also much more tragic than that. We did not even get close to achieving real sovereignty. In attempting to compete with other countries and lead the world in the economic race, we have only ended up becoming more and more dependent. The irony of life has played itself out. In the book, Stuber describes how “…, with its newly won status as a sovereign nation, the United States secured its borders and set the terms of trade, intentionally building up its domestic manufacturing capabilities” (PR Newswire). As a nation, we did our absolute best to strengthen our powers on all fronts. After proving ourselves capable not only of securing independence but also of living with it, we thought we finally became sovereign. But there is the catch. Sovereignty is just an illusion set up mostly to fool people. In reality, we have only become more dependent on other countries. 

Besides, as far as dependency is concerned, we are most certainly dependent on many countries in many ways. It is not as though we are completely isolated from the rest of the world and can handle every single problem on our own. And yet, as a nation, we may frequently act as if we do not need to cooperate with anyone in order to solve our own problems. Such a mentality, however, bespeaks nothing more than arrogance. According to the author, as far as jobs are concerned, more and more positions are getting outsourced: “In just the last 30 years, by Stuber’s count, the U.S. sent $16 trillion and six million jobs offshore” (PR Newswire). By glancing at the statistics, we get a clear indication that we are actually in desperate need of cooperating with other countries to keep the job market in a relatively stable condition. 

Consequently, if we think about it, imperialism in the U.S. is in many ways still alive and well. Real independence, the one for which we have fought so passionately, is now no more. Instead, it has sort of disintegrated into a watered down version of free trade. According to PR Newswire, “Stuber describes how, after 150 years, the U.S. then set out on the road of free trade following World War II, with disastrous results.” This free trade may have been a pinnacle that we as a nation wanted to reach. In reality, however, it did not really get us that far. Years and years later, as a result of poor political and economic choices, we are now in $19 trillion dollar debt (Forbes). Instead of being the economically advanced, democratic, and independent nation we want to be, we are desperately trying to hold together a post, post-colonial reality. Our desire to be on top of the world has, like Stuber suggests, led us to disastrous results. Maybe it was inevitable, but the trouble is that if the trend continues, it might cause major problems for us.

Moreover, the issue is that the future does not necessarily promise any positive changes for our nation. Although we may not know what might happen in the next decade, as Stuber reflects, “The future … portends more of the same” (PR Newswire). In other words, he is suggesting that in the future we probably will be experiencing many of the same issues such as outsourcing and no real free trade. Consequently, it is definitely still relative, while our post, post-colonial reality is alive and well. The problem is that in many ways we are still in the role of the colonial subject. Free trade is difficult. We rely on the rest of the world to keep our economy running. Jobs are outsourced.

Ultimately, the book suggests that we are not at all as advanced as we think we are. Stuber opens our eyes to the gray reality that in the light of day does not look all that positive. So, maybe, to make sure that we make progress as a nation, we should come to back to manufacturing all products at home without relying so much on other countries. The time has come for us to become a truly sovereign nation that relies exclusively on her own home-made resources. We must return to being independent and self-reliant. Our history began with a passionate statement of independence. We should continue asserting our independence by acting as the sovereign nation we call ourselves. The book urges us to do our utmost to live up to the name of a great nation. 

A Foray into Geography: Discovering the U.S.A. Map through a Road Trip

I See Me’s new book My U.S.A Road Trip provides children with a fresh and interesting approach to the study of geography. Given students’ gaps in their geography education, what they urgently need is a resource that would boost their performance and improve test results. The book responds to this need, providing young learners not only with a resource but also with a clear roadmap of the learning process. Under its guidance, students can begin their foray into geography. 

An exclusive focus on Common Core standards has deflected students’ attention away from geography. According to PR Newswire, “Schools spend less time on geography education because of their heavy emphasis on testing and Common Core standards for reading, math, and science.” Because schools focus heavily on math and science, students have major gaps in important subjects such as geography. Consequently, geography as a subject gets neglected in schools, and students do not build the skills they need to pass the Common Core exam in geography successfully. 

Educators should encourage students to realize that what they are studying in their geography classes is real. In particular, teachers must help them understand that they are not just looking at an image or model of the globe. The skills they are building in geography are so important to them precisely because they will need to apply them in the real world. In order to orient themselves both locally and globally, students will have to know geography very well. According to PR Newswire, “In [My U.S.A Road Trip], the child receives a personalized driver’s license, hops into a magical car, and learns state names and key monuments during the journey across America.” The book offers a fresh approach that would motivate students to make clear connections between the countries they see on a map and their real-world locations. If they are able to identify the location of states they visited, they would already begin to orient themselves globally. This book presents young students with a powerful and entertaining introduction to their first exploration of geography. 

The book may prove useful to students also because it motivates them to actually learn the subject. Since U.S. education in geography does not prepare them to pass the Common Core examination sufficiently well, children need books that would help them make progress quickly. We learn from PR Newswire that “[d]espite increasing globalization, U.S. children continue to fail at geography” — all the more reason why students need to have access to books such as My U.S.A Road Trip. 

In addition, the new book may encourage young readers to make strong connections to what they are studying. Students should become more and more aware of what they are learning and why. They should know geography well precisely because they would eventually have to orient themselves on their own. Solid knowledge of the subject is thus absolutely indispensable to them. According to PR Newswire, “The book includes a personalized map of the United States and a list of all 50 states.” Students can use the map to virtually drive across the states. Eventually, they would learn all 50 and be able to move around on their own.

My U.S.A Road Trip may also prompt readers to become responsible people. Geography is no longer just a subject that they study in school. They are expected to apply their knowledge of it in real life. If they want to travel when they grow up, they absolutely need to know their way around the globe. The book offers them a make-believe tour of the states, but it also encourages students to use their imaginations. 

The book prompts readers to imagine that they are explorers who are about to make their unique tour of the states. They are their own guides in their new adventure. According to PR Newswire, “Families can personalize this road trip adventure with their child’s name, gender, and current state.” In other words, children can actually go both on a virtual and individual exploration of the states. 

Finally, My U.S.A Road Trip is absolutely indispensable to children precisely because many are very interested in getting a driver’s license as soon as possible and traveling independently. In addition, the book could also help children learn geography much more efficiently. Most importantly, it might stimulate them to realize that a strong background in geography is not optional. They need to know the subject as well as possible precisely because sooner or later they would need to apply what they know. Once they acquire their basic skills in geography, they should be able to use them. My U.S.A Road Trip offers an inspiring nod in that direction.

The Sentinels: Corruption and Deception Unveiled

In his new publication The Sentinels: Voices Behind The Curtain, Gordon Zuckerman  taps into the source of our current political issues. His book unravels not only the corrupt dealings of our government. It also concentrates specifically on the cracks in our free enterprise system. The books calls on us to become acutely aware of the corruption at the heart of the political scene. As intelligent citizens with unique political views, we simply cannot afford to ignore these issues any longer. They naturally disturb us and make us worry, if not panic, about the future of our nation.

Zuckerman emphasizes the issue of trust on our political scene. In a political system that is complicated in itself and involves so many factors to function properly, trust is absolutely critical. We need to be able to trust our leaders if we want to solve complex political issues. According to Zuckerman, however, we seem to be pretty far away from this kind of mentality. He questions the “silent” political leaders: “When will the corruption, conflict of interests, and underhanded dealings in deception by those we are supposed to trust stop?” (PR Newswire). After all, the issue is that we do not trust our leaders. In a way, we are justified, because we regularly witness corruption in the news and the media. We have tolerated deception for too long and are frankly tired of it. The time has come, Zuckerman implies, to express our indignation at the political corruption and bad leadership that we are only too familiar with.

In addition, the author explores what happens when the big machinery of the government is suddenly undermined. In particular, he explains that as soon as we become dissatisfied with the way our government is treating us, we give way to rebellion. We can definitely put up with deception for a while but not for too long. Eventually, according to Zuckerman, a small group decides to oppose “agendas of misdirected concentrations of wealth and influence” (PR Newswire). In other words, little by little, the rebels who oppose the actions of the government form their own political organization. They do not want to put up with the government’s manipulations any longer. Neither do they want to patiently wait for the government to change its  policies in their favor. Rebellion starts brewing.

At this point, we realize that good leadership is absolutely indispensable to us. We absolutely must have strong leaders who would know how to distribute resources and resolve political and economic issues. Zuckerman suggests that “[w]e need more, high-minded, entrepreneurial leaders,’…  ‘who are opposed to those who abuse privileges of free enterprise for their own interests’” (PR Newswire). The issue is that we do not have capable leaders who will be able to lead us forward into progress. Not only should these people be forward-thinking. They should also be wise and know how to make the right decisions at just the right moment. On the other hand, if we do not have good leaders, we must also know how to respond. Otherwise, without a good leader, the complex machinery of our government would eventually disintegrate.

Once we realize how strongly we need a good leader, rebellion actually starts to smolder within us. We begin noticing flaws in our government. If we do not agree with a leader’s policies, we do not just put up with them. We rebel. In his book, Zuckerman sends us a very concrete message. He tells us that there is no need for us to be silent. He uses the power of fiction to communicate to us what we could do to express our rebellion if only we could be bolder. For Zuckerman, silence is no longer an option for us. According to PR Newswire, the author comments on his individual writing process by articulating the purpose of his book: “By using the fictional lives of the main characters as vehicles for the telling of the story, I have attempted to utilize their experiences to speculate what they might have done in opposition” (Mystery Tribune). His message cannot fail to get home to readers. Zuckerman uses fiction to help us identify faults in the system. Even if we cannot actually rebel against the machinery of the government, at least we can speculate, imagine what we could have done if we had the chance to finally express ourselves.

Needless to say, we should be able to hearken to the voice of reason. Those voices, the ones that are behind the curtain, could possibly tell us exactly what we need to hear. We must learn to listen. Perhaps then, we would finally be able to open our eyes to our current political reality. Perhaps then, we would also realize that the corruption we witness is simply staring at us. It has become so glaring at this point that no matter how hard we try we just cannot ignore it. Above all, we should be able to trust our leaders. We cannot tolerate “the looming threat of malignant agendas of misdirected concentrations of wealth and influence” any longer (PR Newswire). Our leaders are supposed to lead the country and help us make progress as a nation. We cannot allow ourselves to live with incompetent leaders anymore. The book moves us to think about political issues that at this point have become too pressing to be tolerated.  

Ultimately, Zuckerman’s The Sentinels: Voices Behind The Curtain can help us open our eyes to our grim reality. It is time for us to stop corruption. We must embrace free enterprise all over again and focus on returning to the values we once had. We must also become economically stable as a nation and believe in the importance of strong leadership. In the end, the book pushes us to become aware of our flawed political reality and presses us to remain vigilant.

Dream vs. Reality in the Post-Graduation World

In his new book Graduates Nationwide Face Growing Challenge, Mike Eltgroth discusses the problems that every college graduate grapples with in today's reality. Objectively speaking, thousands of students across the U.S. graduate from universities every year. Naturally, as soon as they graduate, many of them start looking for work. If many of these graduates fail to find a job after a thorough and extensive search, life becomes quite difficult for them. Of course, some of them may be better off than others, because their families help support them while they look for work. Others, however, may not be so fortunate and are forced to work odd jobs. In his book, Eltgroth motivates us to think very seriously about the growing challenges that students have to deal with as soon as they are out of college.

So many graduates struggle with numerous questions regarding their future plans. Even if they have a pretty clear idea of what they want to do professionally, the process of actually realizing their goals may become a stumbling block. In fact, it may seem daunting to them, if not almost impossible. Eltgroth draws attention to a serious issue that is at stake in many graduates’ reality today. According to the author, most graduates are simply not equipped with the skills they need to survive in the professional world. He suggests that “the lack of a clear post-graduation plan along with a lack of real-world skills can often lead to anxiety and poor decision making with long term impacts” (PR Newswire). This is precisely the issue that confronts many graduates today. At the university, they complete their general education and major coursework and work on getting an internship. If they are lucky, they find an excellent internship and secure their future at a company. For many though, the process of finishing an undergraduate degree or even a Master’s does not necessarily open up more opportunities. In particular, if the student does not finish a degree in a practical field and lacks real-world skills as well, the act of securing a job can be a very trying experience.

The book provides new graduates with the guidance they need as they plan out their lives after college. Notably, the author focuses on the disparity between dream and reality that they encounter as they realize that the career they envisioned for themselves is not that easy to get. He argues that “[w]hile graduates may have dreams of breaking from the crowd and becoming successful, many don’t have a clear picture of what that really means or how to get there” (PR Newswire). We can picture the new graduate fresh out of college and excited to embark on the next stage of professional life. The trouble is, however, that many students simply do not have a clear idea of how they will get to their dreams, to begin with. If they have a variety of resources at their disposal and are able to get concrete advice from someone, the next step will be less of a problem for them.

In addition, the author discusses other factors that new graduates should be aware of. In this way, he actually prepares them to face real-world challenges. According to the press release, the book covers topics including “…dealing with people, learning from failure, what to expect at their first job, understanding emotional intelligence, building confidence and more” (PR Newswire). These are issues that most new graduates confront as they finish college and enter the real world. Even though they have gained valuable academic skills in the classroom, they may not have the psychological stamina as yet to deal with pressure in the real world. In his book, Eltgroth provides graduates with tips they can use as they embark on the professional stage of their lives.

The book may also move us to think seriously about real-life problems that students have to deal with once they graduate. Looking for a job is certainly not their only concern as they leave the classroom. Life pushes them to think about the issues they have to address if they want to have relative financial stability. According to Eltgroth, new graduates must know “what they truly want, how to go after it and what to expect along the way” (PR Newswire). He suggests that being sure of what they want and being realistic about their goals may help them work through post-graduation challenges. Perhaps, new graduates could get started on their careers sooner if they actually adopt such an approach. Instead of having unrealistic dreams, they could  look for opportunities that match both their skill and experience levels.

In conclusion, exposure to resources such as Mike Eltgroth’s Graduates Nationwide Face Growing Challenge might help us become aware of what is at stake for new graduates. The book cautions us to think deeply about securing their professional and financial future. In addition, it spurs us into action, motivating students and parents to work on developing a concrete post-graduation plan that new graduates can pursue. Most importantly, the book makes us keenly aware of the challenges we are now facing as a nation. We absolutely should do our utmost to apply our skills and knowledge in the real world regardless of the major or skill level. It is crucial for students to grow into professionals and earn decent salaries. Consequently, I believe that more and more readers should be made aware of Eltgroth’s new book.

Wildfire and Tragedy: Inside the Inferno

Simon & Schuster Canada has recently published Damian Asher’s Inside the Inferno: A Firefighter's Story of the Brotherhood that Saved Fort McMurray in which he and his coauthors describe the tragedy of the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire in Canada. Those of us who regularly follow the headlines may have heard of this wildfire. Shocked by its intensity, we may have noted the damage it caused, discussed it at length and then moved on with our own lives. Quite naturally, it may have shocked and terrified us. For those of us who only heard about the fire, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to imagine what the courageous firefighters experienced in the process. As we look at Asher’s book, however, we may eventually start redefining heroism for ourselves. What, we may ask, is the definition of a hero? While Asher’s memoir may not necessarily provide us with the answer to this question, it brings our attention to the Fort McMurray tragedy in all of its terrifying intensity.

If we focus specifically on the book’s title, we may become inevitably drawn to its message. Struck by its power, by the awe-inspiring courage of these people, we would begin to feel that we are not just an audience who are looking at people’s fearless, bleeding hearts on a page. Inevitably, we become silent participants in this tragedy. By commiserating with these people, we become part of their tragic experience, get a taste of the courage that burns inside them. As we read, we are forced to stand face to face with real tragedy. According to Simon and Schuster, the brave men and women of the fire department were tasked with a very difficult mission — “to defend the community and to save thousands of lives.” It is a mission that moves us to think about someone other than ourselves, helps us reflect on the bigger and higher purpose of our lives. These people were not afraid to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. They walked into the fray, knowing that they had already lost everything except for their lives. And yet, they were able to find the courage to ignore their own desires and to work together to defend their community.

As we look at the book, the concept of brotherhood stands out to us. In our modern world, it may often seem that we are pulling further and further away from this concept. Each of us lives in his or her own isolated space. We buy houses, computers, and numerous other gadgets, always eager to claim ownership over some new possession. Only when a natural disaster strikes do we suddenly realize that we cannot hold on to our possessions forever. According to Canada NewsWire, “Inside the Inferno details the courage, strength, and sacrifice of the firefighters and shows what it takes for a city to reunite and rebuild.” In the book’s pages, we rediscover the values of courage, strength, and a sense of bonding. These firefighters would not have been able to save Fort McMurray had it not been for their powerful sense of loyalty to one another. Thus, when reading the book, we inevitably open our eyes to the values that we may have forgotten about in our daily struggles.

The book may also motivate some of us to make connections to literature and films. In particular, I cannot help thinking about Dante’s Inferno. The title itself moves us to make this connection. After all, Dante descended into hell both to cleanse himself and to relieve the sufferers’ pain. He passed through every level of hell and witnessed the suffering of so many souls. In the end, he emerged strengthened and purified both by their suffering and his own. Analogously, the men and women who braved the fire together went through so many levels of hell in order to save their city. According to CBC News, “the story's universal themes could resonate with people whose lives were changed by the wildfire.” All of these people suffered. So many of them lost everything they had, including the homes they worked so hard to build and the possessions they took years to accumulate. Just like Dante, they descended into hell. Like him, they had to descend into an abyss in order to start rebuilding their lives, scarred by suffering but more resilient overall.

These courageous people sacrificed themselves in order to save their community. A spirit of camaraderie bonded them. It was this camaraderie that helped these firefighters eventually emerge from the fray as the heroic group of people who saved the fort and survived the fire. Ultimately, an allusion to the final lines of Tennyson’s “Ulysses” comes to mind precisely because it describes these people’s courage so aptly: “One equal temper of heroic hearts, / Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Inspiration, Creative Writing Process, and our Struggle to Stay Awake

Deniz Besim, a well-known Turkish-Cypriot poet, has recently spoken to a local newspaper about her creative writing process. As we look closer at the poet’s work, we learn that she has successfully published three books of her poetry and short stories. In her poetry, Besim expresses her innermost feelings, feelings that are familiar to most of us — pain, grief, and especially, empathy. In her writings, she finds powerful words both to describe and express her suffering. As we look at her stories and poems, we could experience a reawakening of dormant feelings inside us and hear the suffering her characters have endured. In the process, we may inevitably pick up the vibrations of her inspiration and experience our innermost feelings expressed in words.  

If we carefully examine her poetry, we might be immediately drawn to her writing style that is so intricately interwoven with the feelings we experience. For us, her style becomes one with natural beauty, synonymous with inspiration. According to PR Newswire, she draws from sources such as the “howling of the wind, a fluttering of anything that could happen in nature.” Besim then uses poetry to describe her experience of natural beauty. She looks for inspiration in nature and finds its source. The poet’s writing notably strikes at the very core of our feelings, motivating us to appreciate natural beauty and learn to resolve our psychological troubles.

In addition, Besim’s work moves us to think deeply about our unique emotional responses to our own experiences. The experience of reading the poet’s work draws us into her world. Inevitably, we begin to sense the power of the written word. Eventually, we realize that her “style of writing has a powerful impact on the reader as it has the magical movements of dragging you into the story…” (PR Newswire). Once we are in her world, we are as if enchanted. We experience the rise and fall of inspiration together with the poet. Through her writing, the poet also moves us to “empathise with the character(s) and put[s] [us] through emotions [we] may not even be familiar with” (PR Newswire). We may also realize that there are emotions inside us that we have not been aware of. The experience of looking at her writing might move us to awaken those feelings and find an outlet for them.

In her talk, Besim pays special attention to what she learned from reading other writers. She gives us the sense that her inspiration draws from the wisdom of the centuries. We also realize that the lessons she learned helped her become a truly powerful writer. According to PR Newswire, Besim talks about the importance of reading other authors and suggests that they “gave her a solid perspective to understand and digest the language, and open wider doors for inspiration perhaps.” Inevitably, we come to the conclusion that language might have real power. Reading the work of other writers might have helped her expand her perspective and realize how to best find a voice for her ideas.

As we continue looking at this writer’s work, we are drawn to the power of her messages.   Gradually, we understand that she sees and hears with her heart. A deeper sense of hearing opens up for her and she is able to convey messages that are truly valuable to her audience. As we read, we become more and more aware of the difficulty involved in making the right kind of choices especially when we are still young and unsure of ourselves. In particular, as we look at some of her poems such as “Amazon,” we see an interesting parallel between the website and the intricate jungle of the web. The poet observes that the trees of the jungle are cut down to produce the books we read. We do not realize that millions of trees have to be sacrificed so we can keep reading those books. And yet, the wild, untamed beauty of the amazon suffers because of our desire for “knowledge”. The issue is that oftentimes we do not even value what we learn or fail to actually make meaningful and logical conclusions afterwards.

It is interesting, therefore, to examine Besim’s responses to our relationship with the natural world. Eventually, we might understand that our own inability to appreciate the world around us conveys a very important message to us. Maybe, we are asleep. We have fallen asleep emotionally. Only a jolt that is powerful enough to get us out of our half-dormant state would help us gradually awaken. Besim’s writing might be the key. Perhaps, what we need is to emotionally experience the magical movements that Besim’s writing style evokes in us. Perhaps then, we will finally awaken from a deep emotional sleep and begin feeling, empathizing with people around us, and simply acting like human beings who still have not lost the best in us.