Let's Not Make Nativism an American Tradition
You, like me, may have stumbled several times across the op-ed entitled “Christmas 2011 – Birth of a New Tradition.” Its chief message?: “Buy American,” a sentiment many of us can support. It’s the writers’ reasoning, as well as their repeated, and disdainful, waving of the phrase “the Chinese” like a nativist, pro-American flag, that knots my granny panties.
Below is a response I posted to a listserv of which I’m a member. Enjoy.
Thanks for sharing this call to action. I, for one, am a huge fan of not buying people more stuff, since that's the last thing most of us need. My own personal philosophy is to either eschew presents or else buy people experiences, especially dinner with an amazing person like, well, me. :-D Also, I'm deeply annoyed by our consumerist culture, which thrives on making people feel the answers to all of life's questions can be found in the aisle of a store. It also actively promotes sizeism, looksism, and other inequalities in hopes of "inspiring" hatred of self, only assuageable by purchasing products. I feel good when I don't participate in the economy of body hatred.
I also think buying local and national is a fantastic project, especially since U.S. corporations outsource to countries like China, Honduras, and the Philippines, because many of those countries don't have unions and don't have to pay their employees a living wage or provide safe and humane working conditions. Also, we have huge unemployment rates in the U.S. and could use the work, but corporations consistently use outsourced labor in order to keep prices low. I don’t like supporting companies that exploit these desperate workers. Given all this, I think it's amazing to support American workers, many of whom are experiencing pay stagnation and mandatory furloughs, instead of buying cheap stuff from mega-stores.
However, I would also love to see us respect the workers and citizens of China and other nations who have responded to the call of Western corporations and Western greed for useless products. The U.S. has a history of exploiting Chinese, Mexican, and others' labor and then blaming them for taking American workers' jobs and "ruining" the American economy. You can see throughout American history how we've begged these folks for help and, when we're done with them, framed their efforts as attempts to take over our country. Rather than hating on Chinese, Mexican, Filipino, Taiwanese, and other international workers, maybe we should shine the light of our disapproval on Western corporations for outsourcing in the first place, flooding our country with these cheap products, and then trying to brainwash us into believing we need them.
In sum, I support buying stuff as infrequently as possible. When I do buy, I support buying local. I also support buying fair-trade. I do this because I'm grumpy about what corporations have done to the American worker and our economy. I would also like to see us honor our local and international sisters and brothers who continue to labor in terrible conditions so most of us can "enjoy" buying lots of stuff very cheaply.
Happy holidays to all of you. May your Tofurky Day rock your socks.