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the great american fire sale

The Great American Fire Sale
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When we see a place that lies in ruins, we are primed to interpret them in terms of visual splendor: what are the colors used? What is the composition? How impressive is the space?

Each place I visit represents very real loss outside the artistic sphere. Some would argue that this is why artistically presenting such sites is somehow unethical. My response is that if things aren't visually arresting, no one will bother to take the time to look at and consider them. It is precisely the quality that can make it easy to miss the point of the photograph that also makes one pause to consider it and thus get what it is about - an interesting paradox. You likely would not bother reading this if the photograph hadn't first caught your eye.

You are not just looking at something that is there to entertain and amuse. In many ways you are looking at the scene of a crime. When a steel mill of this size is closed, we should be asking why? And how do we prevent it? And yet the answers are not easy or comfortable. Pointing fingers at politicians is easiest but if we live in a democracy, we as a people are to blame also, and perhaps moreso. At this point I think people on both sides of the political spectrum are aware that there is a sort of fire sale on American greatness going on right now and it has been for my entire life. If this weren't true, I would not have such fertile grounds for my work. Essentially I am documenting our slide into a third world country. We are already a lot closer than most people would want to think.

On both sides of the aisles, people seem to all agree that the export of American jobs is to blame. Clinton sold us out with NAFTA, Bush with CAFTA - free trade bills that made exporting jobs exponentially easier. Both parties pay lip service to protecting American jobs but do very little to prevent work being shipped elsewhere.

Contact your Senators and Representatives. Demand trade reforms that even the playing field between American businesses and ones that use child labor, unsafe working practices, ones that destroy the environment. Consciously shop for American made products. Write to or call retailers' headquarters to tell them that you want American made goods and name specific companies (ones that manufacture, not just distribute, from the US). Figure out ways to fight and share them with your friends and family. Most of all, find ways to alter your own spending habits and behavior. Do something. Stop hiding and fretting and instead look to how you can work with others around you to do something.

If you think what I've been doing is just to give you interesting things to look at, you are so very wrong. I'm trying to tell you that the house you're sleeping in is on fire. Wake up.


Also in: Wheeling-Pitt Steel