Should we care, deeply and passionately, that the uniforms worn by athletes of the U.S. Olympic team were made in China? Should we, following the angry suggestion of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — who has shown more vigor about this issue than issues of lesser importance like, say, the budget deficit — take all of the U.S. team uniforms, put them in a pile, and burn them?
I’m surprised that the U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t anticipate this kind of over-the-top political reaction and make sure to use a U.S. manufacturer for the uniforms, no matter how much it cost. My guess, however, is that the person in charge of the uniforms decided to get what they could at the lowest cost, to make the budget stretch a little farther. That meant looking to China. There’s nothing unusual about that, of course. My guess is that, on a daily basis, most Americans wear clothing that for the most part was manufactured, sewn, or assembled in China, because Chinese garment makers tend to provide good quality at a much lower price than their American competitors. Capitalism gives us the right to make these sorts of decisions in our personal lives, and many of us do — whether it’s Chinese clothing, Korean cars, or French wine. Protectionist political impulses aside, why should the U.S. Olympic Committee be treated differently?
The real issue with the uniforms, instead, should be with their appearance. What, is every one of our athletes participating in a yachting competition? These guys look like they should be holding a cold Vodka Collins rather than an American flag and should speak with the same affected, upper-crust accent that we heard from Thurston Howell III and “Lovey.” Do you think those sparkling white shoes have little gold buckles on them? And what’s with the hat, by the way? Is it supposed to be a beret, or an extra-large skullcap, or something that also could serve to cover an oozing head wound in a pinch?