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Recently, I challenged myself to a gargantuan task: boycott all goods made in China. Let me assure you that this decision does not have its roots in racial bias or discrimination. I’m simply tired of buying poorly-made items that fall apart in two weeks (see “Cheap Things”), and using my purchasing power to help support unethical practices such as the manufacturing of lead-contaminated children’s toys and the skinning alive of dogs and cats for decorative fur.

My “Boycott China” challenge began innocently enough around the Christmas holiday-about the same time I got a wild hair to decorate my tree with all snowmen and nutcrackers. (Just let me have my fantasy, all right?) I hurried down to a locally owned garden shop that transforms into a winter-wonderland of consumerism during the Christmas season. I carefully tiptoed down each and every aisle, gingerly caressing the assortment of sparkly, bejeweled specimens, each vowing to win a coveted spot on my tree of miniature men. I gasped aloud every time I saw the next man of my dreams. Each snowman was rounder and whiter and more elegant than the next. Each nutcracker was more wooden and delicate, and more ornately-attired than his predecessor.  I was in love, over and over and over again. How could I possibly choose from this smorgasbord of male characters? Who would come home with me tonight?

The decision method soon became apparent when I found myself lovingly stroking a nutcracker’s beard and being taken aback by its softness. This was no faux hair, I thought to myself. I turned the little guy over to determine his maker. My heart sunk to the deepest depths of despair when I saw his country of origin. China. As an educated animal activist, I knew of the horrors associated with China’s extensive cat and dog fur-trade. I also knew that practically every item that comes from China and contains a fur-like fabric is indeed real fur. Dogs and cats come cheap in a nation where neutering is not a priority and where inexpensive fur pelts can be used on many of the items produced in this manufacturing-based economy. Thus, one nutcracker was eliminated, and I hesitantly placed him back on the display tree.

I retraced my steps back to the tree that held one of my previously rejected nutcrackers. And there he dangled, my second choice soldier among an army of fellow nutcrackers, waiting patiently to be plucked from the tree.  And plucked I did. I wasted no time transferring my affections to my new nutcracker, silently admiring the way his strong, masculine jaw settled so comfortably into his chiseled, wooden features. Yes, this was the nutcracker for me. I placed him carefully into the cart and began perusing the displays again to extend my harem of nutcrackers, when I realized I had forgotten to check his credentials. With procrastination in my heart, I retrieved Nutcracker Number 2 from the cart and squinted to see the fine print sculpted on his tight, athletic bottom. Much to my dismay, I saw those same five letters again. C-H-I-N-A. Or was it C-H-I-L-E?  Unfortunately, it was not Chile. It was purely wishful thinking that this nutcracker might be a Latin lover. After thrusting him back onto the display, I made a cursory check of the various other nutcrackers adorning the trees. I began picking them up one after the other, noting their similar tattoos. “China” or the more specific,  “Made in China.” Eventually, I gave up on nutcrackers, determining that they were not my type. 

So, I moved on to my snowman selection. A sense of relief swept over me when I realized that none of the snowmen had hair. They were as bald as bald could be, and I began admiring the sexy curvature of each of their delightfully bare heads. I started tossing snowmen in my cart left and right, secretly planning their exact location on my tree. After twenty minutes, my cart runneth over with snowmen. In fact, I calculated that if these were real snowman and they were to melt in the California sun, they would supply a week’s worth of water for every man, woman, and child in China. Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to see where my snowmen came from. I picked up a short, plump little guy wearing a top-hat taller than his entire body. Shock and grief overtook me when I saw the familiar stamp on his feet. I grabbed another snowman and another and another, inspecting all their body parts for the dreaded birthmark. No snowman was left unturned in my quest to find a non-Chinese specimen.

It suddenly dawned on me that something was clearly suspect here. How could all the nutcrackers and snowmen be made in China? Was it a subliminal desire leading me to adorn my tree with little Chinese men, or did this “Made in China” thing extend beyond the nutcrackers and the snowmen? I quickly expanded my search to include all the traditional tree ornaments: reindeer, Santas, angels, glass balls, garland, you name it. What I found sickened me to the very core. Every last ornament in the place was made In China. And I mean every last ornament: hundreds and hundreds of them, all possibly containing remnants of animal fur and lead paint. After grudgingly returning each and every ornament to the displays, I ran screaming from the store, thus setting the stage for my quest to boycott all Chinese-made products.

Driving home I felt confident about my decision to dump my miniature men at the door, but I felt like that still wasn’t enough. Then the light bulb went off and I decided I would avoid purchasing any and all goods made in China. It was important to take a stand, I thought, and besides, how hard could it be to avoid products made in one country? The naiveté of that statement would become quite apparent in the weeks to come. Let’s just suffice it to say that one should not shop at Target, or any similarly-ranked department store, if they are on a no-Chinese diet.  

As an example, let’s take a recent outing at the aforementioned Target, triggered by my need to purchase some office supplies and dish towels. Right out of the gate, I didn’t have a chance. The notebooks, mechanical pencils, and paper clips I sought were all made in China. Moving on to the housewares section, I spied some basic, but stylish dishtowels that were the perfect accent to my kitchen. That is, until I discovered the five-lettered word printed on the tag. Just for the hell of it, I decided to peruse the various departments around the store for all kinds of random items that were not on my shopping list. Much to my dismay, every item I examined was made in China including: glassware, dishes, coasters, curtain rods, curtains, toys (but you already knew that), sleeping bags, coolers, lamps, clothing, cooking utensils, pet beds, tennis balls, jewelry, hand bags, hats, shoes, baby strollers, pacifiers (god forbid), blenders, microwaves (knew it), and on and on. 

Breathless and exhausted from my extensive search, I dropped down on the floor in the middle of a quiet aisle to rest. My eyes began to grope items on the lower shelves and my body jerked wide awake when I saw the big, bold letters “USA” printed on the cardboard tag of a group of items encased in plastic. I pulled the package from the shelf and grinned from ear to ear as I admired the physique of the item I had found. Perfectly straight, perfectly wooden, perfectly splinter-free… chopsticks. So I bought a package, and on my way home picked up some takeout food. That evening, while up to my elbows in chow mein noodles, I basked in the warmth of my success. Or was it just the heat from the Chinese food?

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