America, the Beautiful?

by - Friday, June 09, 2017

When I was 22, The Boy and I drove across the United States for the first time. It was only then that I got a sense of just how large and just wide the country it was. I also saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time.

I do believe this country is beautiful and on days where I panic about the state of this place, I find it comforting to remember just how big it is. There is a lot of space here. I love that about our country. I love that it can contain huge cities and the Rocky Mountains in the same place. The Pennsylvania Amish and the Las Vegas Strip in the same country. There is room for incredible diversity, beauty, and just weirdness, and I am really proud of that.

Last year, I committed June to writing about buying only Made in America goods. I still believe in doing this- I think it is better for American communities, I have no interest in funding the kind of companies that would export their goods so they can indulge in cheap and unethical labor, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, I believe that the excessive consumer culture and shipping all over the world is a silly waste of resources.

But I am not going to say I don't feel differently about it now than I did a year ago. For the first time, I can truly see just how deep the ugly in this country goes- racism I had foolishly overlooked, poverty, anger, deep deep hatred. As is true for so many of us, I see things in a much less positive way, and it can be hard to get attached to Made in America when it has some xenophobic, big boobs on mud flaps kinds of connotations. In reality, that isn't the case at all.

This past Memorial Day, I saw a lot of "patriotic" posts of people, their families, and their children, decked out in "America" gear. I guess I get it. People want to express their patriotism, but I couldn't help but wonder whether any of their red white and blue duds were actually made in America.

It's actually pretty amazing when you realize how much "patriotic" stuff is made in Elsewhere. In the light of everything else, the falseness of wearing cheaply-made, imported junk proclaiming your pride is just completely unpalatable to me. Ick ick ick ick ick.

Now, maybe things can still be patriotic but not actually create any American jobs. And maybe things can still be about American when someone is practically treated like a slave to make it. Maybe you can think we are a Christian nation, but is it because we stand up for what is right, or have we just pushed our wrongs far enough out of sight that we can live with it?

This kind of patriotic hypocrisy seems to run rampant lately. A whole political party preaches Making America Great Again while their leader still makes everything with Chinese labor and Chinese steel.

This whole season of our country really demands that we each ask the question of what being American means. And I think you can be all sorts of things and be a great American.

But I want to throw something out not often said- no matter what your point of view, your location, your faith (or not), you should be buying American. It's one of those places where, whether we realize it or not, we share common goals and even our separate viewpoints can all be served by putting more of our money into American goods.

If you are a Trumper, buy American. Buying American puts America first.

If you are liberal, buy American. Buying American is better for the environment, minimizes shipping's carbon emissions and fossil fuel use.

If you are a conservative, buy American. Buying American and local can reinvigorate small towns and keeps our money here, not in other countries or (worse) the Waltons' black hole of wealth.

If you are a Christian, buy American. Invest in companies with good reputations for labor, because you should not invest in the mistreatment of another human being.

If you are an Atheist, buy American. Buying American takes better care of the lives and environment that we have.

If you are cheap, Buy American. Yep, it's expensive, but if it is made of higher quality stuff, you won't have to replace it, so it will save you money in the long run (and it pairs really well with thrift shopping).

If you are an American, Buy American. 

Our country has a lot of problems, of ugliness, a lot of things to tackle. This won't solve the problem that we are addicted to plastic and covering our beautiful landscape with trash. It won't solve that our government is currently deregulating companies that desperately need reined in. It won't solve all of our responsibilities to the wildlife and the land that makes this country so beautiful.

But buying American sure could do a lot of good. Making jobs. Lowering emissions. Saving fossil fuels. And if enough of us do it, it also sends companies the message that this stuff is important and it is worth manufacturing here.

So this is my challenge for you, no matter what kind of American you are- only buy made in America from now until the 4th of July. 

Absolutely can't find it? Buy it used instead. If you have questions of things that seem impossible- comment and tell me! I have done tons of research about this, and I will happily look more things up. Check out the series "Don't Buy, Instead Try..." for simple switches for "American" companies that aren't American at all or check out the Giant List of Shopping Lists for all sorts of ideas. You can do this, and I want to hear about how it goes! Be American. Buy American.

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