Bumped into a music producer friend at a social function the other day who told me something that didn’t immediately register. “Gibson, has gone bankrupt,” he said. “Gibson,” being the Gibson Guitar Company, supplier of guitars to Clapton, B.B. King, and all the rest. An old Gibson “Les Paul Junior” is the one guitar every nearly every rocker wants. If they can even find and afford one.
Pretty much any garage band rocker who came of age in the 50’s or 60’s has some fond memory of a Gibson or two. Mine pre-dates my first garage band – or should I say “basement band,” as in Minnesota, the garage was way too cold for making music. I go all the way back to the folk craze, to Pete Seeger and the Weavers, Malvina Reynolds and Peter, Paul and Mary. As a kid, I had the folkie-thing bad and so it was that I talked my parents into buying me a real guitar. My mother eventually caved and decided we should go to a good music store for the purchase. And so, on one very cold winter’s day in the early 60’s, we arrived at the St. Cloud Music Store. It was cold enough to bring tears to my mother’s eyes.
I recall looking at two guitars. One was a hollow-body electric, with “f-holes.” The other, was a simple and yet beautiful classical guitar, similar to the instruments played by Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey. My mother wanted me to get the big electric monster, but I’d have none of it. I was a devoted folkie and I wanted the acoustic folk guitar. Both guitars were Gibsons, and so I left the store with a Gibson CO-Classic guitar.
Gibson, isn’t just a guitar company, it’s an American icon. Like Bazooka bubble gum, Chevrolet, the Yankees and Harley Davidson, which just announced they’ll be laying off around one-hundred workers here in the U.S., and opening a new plant in Thailand.
First Harley and now Gibson? A line from that old Buffalo Springfield song, “somethin’s happenin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear….” keeps replaying in my head. Something very basic, entirely fundamental to who we are has changed and there may be no going back. Oh sure, Gibson is in Chapter 11, and they may be able to reorganize and survive as a company, and yet you have to wonder exactly where we now are.
Some months ago I decided to get back into plinking around on a guitar. My old Gibson and I parted ways years ago, and I had no desire to spend the money necessary to pick up another Gibson, so I decided to buy an Ibenez. I had one some time ago and loved it, so that’s what I got. For a mere $200, I got a hollow-body cutaway with an input for an amp. The thing even has a built-in electronic tuner. All for $200 bucks, and it plays and sounds great. Since it was my second Ibenez, I became part of the reason Gibson was forced into bankruptcy. Ibenez, you see, is a Japanese company. This guitar I just purchased, was made in China. A Japanese guitar made in China and sold in the United States. And the wheels on the bus go round and round.
I can imagine this guy rolling down the highway on a Harley made in Thailand, wearing a black jacket made in Mexico with a Japanese guitar made in China slung across his back.
I was amused the other day by a statement the President made about banning imports of luxury cars. I guess nobody told him that BMW is making cars in South Carolina while Honda assembles its top-rated Accord in Marysville, Ohio and that Mercedes are being built by American workers in Alabama.
It was almost as amusing as his constant touting of employment numbers. Apparently he never considers the millions of good paying union jobs that have been off-shored and will probably never be coming back, not to mention the fact that you can’t make a living flipping burgers or working at a checkout counter for a company that limits your hours to under forty a week making you ineligible for benefits and with no union to represent what should be your basic human rights.
It’s called globalism. It’s represented by a class of multi-national corporations and billionaires who live in a world separate from most. They live in mansions, travel in private jets and eat in private dining rooms. When they get sick, they go to the best doctors without having to worry about paying the bill. Their children attend the most expensive private schools. We support their lifestyles with our tax dollars which pay not only for police and fire service here in the United States, but for the American military which guarantees the security of their economic interests internationally. And yet, their loyalty is not to the country, but to the ebb and flow of capital.
Economically, they own us. Meaning, they are also in control of much of what happens to us culturally. With enough money you can buy not only politicians but an endless stream of media telling the same lies over and over again until eventually, the lies become accepted as fact. A new reality. Like unions being the problem instead of a solution. Like tax cuts for the uber-wealthy being the best thing for the uber-poor. Like supporting the hate-filled, racist rhetoric coming from the mouth of an autocrat who diverts attention from the growing income gap between those at the top and what used to be middle-America.
When I was a little kid, we used to taunt one-another with the question, “Is the Pope Catholic?” It was a smart-ass retort, because the answer was so fundamentally simple. Very soon, it may not be.
We may be at a point where one of the few real things we have left as Americans, is our political self-determination. Even that is threatened by Russian hackers and billionaires who pump millions into political campaigns to buy ads to alter public perception while bribing elected officials. Controlling the way we vote is still that important. It’s the one thing we know we can still control. It’s one thing that has not been stripped away from middle-America.
Please vote. In both the general and the primary. Or one day you may wake up to discover the Pope is no longer Catholic and the country is no longer there. That we are just one big global economy run not by elected officials, but by multinational billionaire oligarchs for whom your personal opinions and needs will be largely irrelevant.