The denim patches sown on my limp, faded jeans and the cotton patches on my flimsy shirts revealed personal facts.
No. 1 — my family had little money. No. 2 — I had older brothers. No. 3 — there were other kids in town like me.
Unfortunately, I was the last of three boys born within a four-year period. My clothes had been worn — that is, worn out, or worn through with rips and holes — by my two older brothers.
By the time their clothes passed down to me, the jeans and shirts required major patchwork. Without patches, the holes and rips got larger.
My mom Emma and grandmother Odessa sewed on patches with a manual pedal sewing machine, hoping to get the clothing through one last boy.
Back in the 1950s, patches didn’t come with fancy designs and vivid colors. They were not a fashion or protest statement then, like they are today.
The cotton patches were dyed to match the usual colors, sewn on by hand or by machine and very easy to spot. Iron-on patches didn’t arrive until later.
I was not alone. Many of the kids showed up for the first day of school in patched clothing. Times were tough as the nation continued its recovery from World War II.
But, my, how the years have brought on change. Kids today pay big bucks for pants and shirts covered with patches.
I noticed online a pair of U.S.-made Levi 501 selvedge jeans covered with holes and patches on sale for more than $200! This prized selvedge denim is woven on ancient looms at cotton mills located in North Carolina.
The selvedge, or self-edge, denim is in high demand in the fashion world. This rare denim is said to be the best money can buy.
So, here we go again with radical change. What was at one time a source of shame is now a source of pride. Folks of all ages today scramble to buy blue jeans and shirts covered with patches.
My wife Jean, who is well aware of my fondness for jeans (no relation), threatens all the time to buy me a pair of the “holy but not righteous” kind covered with patches and made here in the old U.S.
I keep telling her, “Honey, hold up for right now.” That’s my way of putting it off until she forgets.
Back to the story: As the 1960s arrived, patches became the big thing for protesting hippies wearing jeans or khaki pants and shirts covered with anti-Vietnam War images.
Which leads me in to the point of this article. Basically, what we’re getting out of Washington these days is patchwork legislation, with very little vision or direction, designed to just try and hold the country together.
Many of the bills before Congress look like my old Air Force underwear, with rips too far gone for patches.
Congress is just like a pair of these old, worn-out jeans. The bills coming off Capitol Hill are patchy at best, drafted and OK’d just to keep the nation inching along.
Sadly, there is no single, long-range vision for our nation’s future. There are only patchwork efforts to keep the country crawling along. Pretty soon the crawling becomes a collapse.
Promised legislation to rebuild America’s worn-out roads and bridges; immigration legislation with vision for the future; health care that meets the needs of all Americans — these lack even a handshake agreement from Democrats and Republicans.
Political appointments to top government positions are patchwork. Department heads and White House aides are appointed one day and gone the next.
To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, these appointed ones “come and go, speaking of Michelangelo,” which pretty much means they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.
Simply put, there is no foundation of stability in government. And no one seems to have a clue of the long-range damage that is happening to the nation.
Democracy works best when there is stability in place. Democracy requires vision and foresight — to see and recognize the problems and to seek and find solutions. Record-setting deficits, crumbling bridges and highways, recovery from massive storms — all these mounting issues require immediate attention.
But Congress is unable today to find the way forward, distracted by heated rhetoric from both major parties and the independents.
I don’t think The Donald had to worry about patched jeans when he was growing up. And I don’t think he ever learned how to be grateful. It’s either his way or the highway.
But he’s not alone in this attitude. Many of the senators and representatives and department heads are nothing more than patches themselves, trying to cover the holes in the cloth holding the country together.
The rips in the fabric of America are still there, just covered over, like my childhood jeans.
Sorry, guys and gals on Capitol Hill, the patchwork legislation just won’t cut it.
America needs new pants designed and made with the U.S. brand. We need legislation with vision, not patriotic or partisan patches, to carry us forward into the future.
Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.