Sunday, July 15, 2007

Year without China

One of the least charming things about Americans is the dog-like way we respond to the signals of our trainers. A word or gesture or toot on the dog whistle and we go after the designated enemy with all the eager bravado our little brains are capable of. Of a sudden we have an urgent desire to fetch that stick or rip that throat and rarely stop to ask whose needs we are responding to.

Of a sudden we have cartoons everywhere portraying Chinese food as poison and Chinese goods as dangerous. Some street vendor out of millions of street vendors in a place we couldn't find on a map add chopped cardboard to his dumpling filling and we know and care about that while ignoring the diner in Arkansas that puts sawdust in the sausage. The FDA finds things in farmed fish that might, after many years of eating it, possibly be detrimental, but we're not sure and we panic more then we do when we read several times a year about millions of pounds of tainted hamburger. Some toys are found that have some unspecified amount of lead in the paint and no incidents of harm and we panic. Some crook in china looked the other way when someone sold anti-freeze as glycerin and let melamine into some dog food. He was shot for it the other day, but China is now an enemy - the enemy of our economy and out health - although it accounts for about 15% of our imports.

Somehow when hundreds die from bad hamburger or spinach or peanut butter, when a restaurant chain sells a burger that's nearly 100% filler, when hundreds of thousands of cars and tires are recalled for safety concerns, when thousands of toys are pulled off the market because some kid could stick it in his ear we don't think about war with Germany or Japan or Korea whence we import huge amounts of stuff or with California or Kansas. Domestic fish, farmed and wild, contain industrial pollutants. Tap water in some places is unsafe. Domestic Chicken, beef and milk contain residues from hormones and pesticides and perhaps antibiotics. As a nation we don't care that much or feel terribly unsafe, even though people die from domestic products.

many people have died from defective Fords - we don't boycott Michigan products. Firestone built a tire that failed too often when abused - we didn't declare war on them or on Japan nor did we write books about a year without "made in Japan" much less any of the other countries we import food and manufactured goods from.

In fact we prefer imported good and we have for a long time. Whether it's California wine or Detroit automobiles, we will spend more for the imports even when they are demonstrably inferior or more dangerous. In my local grocery store, Mediterranean sea salt sells for more than Caribbean sea salt, even though the salt is identical. We will pay more for coffee with some fake foreign sounding name and a paninni is much more desirable than a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Nearly all our decisions and most that we defend the most strenuously are based on pure prejudice and our prejudices often are plug and play items furnished us by others for their gain.

If someone now wants us to be really upset with China, but not upset with the countries we import more from, shouldn't someone ask why? Isn't it time we asked some questions of ourselves when we hear the dog whistle blow?

1 comment:

Reign of Reason said...

Americans need enemies... It's the action-movie syndrome: everyone wants to be the good guy in the battle against "evil" ... so we manufacture it wherever we can. How can you be a hero if there isn't a bad guy?

We're a nation of adolescents...