Imagine your beautiful evergreen decorated with ornaments collected over the years, the latest kid-made creations, twinkling lights, and a star or angel at the top. You sit on your comfy couch with a mug of cocoa in your hand, listening to Nat King Coles' Christmas album and watching the kids look at the gifts and try to guess what they contain. You wonder: Midnight Mass or morning Mass? Caroling with the Smiths or the Murphys? Do we have time to make tamales with the Rodrieguez family this year?
Contrast this lovely image with the reality of working at a Christmas lights factory in China. Not only are you far from family and living in cramped and unsanitary dormitories, you don't know what this "Christmas" is; you would be in trouble with the party if you insisted on celebrating the religious aspects of this holiday off of which your country and corporations make so much money. Your fingers are cramped with the constant twisting to make the Christmas lights that Westerners seem to buy every year. You've heard that some people buy new ones simply because the old ones are tangled; it is easier to buy new ones on sale than to untangle, so countless strings of lights fill landfills. You don't want to think about the lead that you are exposed to every day; your family needs the money you send to their poor province.
When I look at my Christmas tree, I remember everything that happened in past years. Every ornament has a memory attached to it. I have an ornament we bought on our honeymoon; I have old ornaments that I made myself. Listening to songs from the old country, we talk about times past while we decorate the tree and drink the required eggnog (regular store-bought cut in half with milk and with nutmeg on top). I want my Christmas memories to be built on love, not the discrimination of workers far away.
Why am I focusing on Chinese-made Christmas lights? We have to start somewhere. Also, the manufacture of the Christmas lights is especially environmentally dangerous to the earth and the workers. I haven't purchased Christmas (or Easter) decorations or other holiday-themed items made in China for the past six years. My breaking point was a commemorative John Paul II ornament made in China sold at the local J.C.Penny. I just couldn't take it anymore. I know that the United States has basically sold itself to China for its cheap goods and labor. I know that wood and even fish from Oregon and Washington are sent to China to be processed and then sent back to the U.S. to be sold. I also know that many other countries (yes, even the U.S.) is discriminatory to its workers in the name of cheap goods (dollar store, anyone?). But the combination of China and Christmas feels especially ominous this year.
China is now an economic superpower, thanks in part to the West's love of cheap goods that they supply. We tolerate their strict communism on social issues because the Chinese government seems to have become capitalists on the grandest scale. Many might be envious of Chinese-style full-scale capitalism that is without the fetters of environmental regulations and workers' rights. We ignore their one-child policy and everything that that entails. A woman can be forced into an eight-month abortion because she already has a seven-year old child. We look the other way and wait for the Christmas lights to go on sale at Walmart or Target or our favorite store that is so much hipper than Walmart and Target.
What can we do? The problem is huge; the horse is out of the barn, and China will always supply all our Christmas 'needs'. That might be true, but we should start somewhere. I am challenging all my family and friends and blog readers to start by not buying Christmas lights made in China!
In later posts, I'll give some alternative ideas to made in China Christmas lights. In the meantime- please contemplate my challenge. Please vote in the poll to your right- I'm curious what you think. Thanks for reading this far- God bless you!