Monday, July 6, 2009

Torching Superficial Protest: A Rant

Torching Superficial Protest: A Rant

or Another reason to say "No" to children in the toy aisle.

The Olympic Torch relay and the protests surrounding it are a bit of a joke. There, I've said it. The Olympics are full of empty ceremony that barely catches the eye of the global audience outside of asking "How many medals do we have?" rather than looking at it as a gathering of the international community. WIth the recent problems in Tibet, poison in their exports, and general human rights violations, we do have much to be concerned about in China. Yet, now disrupting the torch relay and then talk of the Olympics themselves in Beijing has become the frontline of a movement against the Chinese Government and their offenses against human rights. To clarify, I do not find the protesters themselves disingenuous. I believe that they are speaking out while the eye of the world may be watching for those suffering in China. Yet, when the Democratic leaders come out to speak against the torch relay and the pomp and circumstance ceremonies of the games themselves, I am impelled to call "bullshit."

The United States recently accepted $150 billion from the Chinese Government for the supposed benefit of the entire nation; this is supposedly where our stimulus refunds are coming from. How may of the leaders in Washington who spoke out against these games, have items made in China in their offices or homes? For that matter, how many of the protesters ensure that they do not financially support businesses that are in bed with Chinese companies? The Olympics are a world event and thus is an excellent place to take a stand against these injustices. Arguably, I think if everyone attends and then takes some sort of stand at the games, under the watchful world's eye, this would be more effective than a boycott. Yet, for President Bush to accept a $150 billion check from this government and then skip out on their "party" is just another sign of American arrogance and continues to hurt our world image. If we were to seriously take the steps to send an economic message to the Chinese government, this would have a greater impact than simply ignoring the Olympics.

Very simply, we tell the Chinese government that we still wish to do business and that they are friends, but steps must be taken to ensure that it is a positive situation for all involved. Refuse their products until they can ensure that all workers are of legal age and paid a substantial wage. Impose high tariffs on companies that violate human rights or even pollute the area. There is such a large cloud of smog over China that it travels to Europe and eventually we shall feel it here if we do not already. Regardless of one's views on global warming, conservation, and climate change, how does one even argue that it is not in the best planetary interest to try to clean up our acts so to speak? If I can't smoke in a restaurant because my server deserves a clean-air workplace, what pray tell do the workers in these pollutant-rich companies at home and abroad suffer? America could stand up to our largest supplier of goods and say enough is enough. While we may have to go without Ipods or toys or all of the flim-flam we get from China - they would have to go without our (their) money.

This will not happen. Were we to stop buying products made in China, this would require a lot of us to go without a lot of the things that make our lives so much easier. Our children would suffer the most as all of the most, super-sweetest toys are made in China as well. Would companies respond by taking their manufacturing elsewhere? Would it even get that far before the Chinese government reacted? I am unsure. I am not intimately familiar with the specifics in this matter as like most Americans, I just did my duty and consumed - happy that things we so cheap and not thinking of where they came from or the conditions under which these things were made. I am still unsure of even if or how this situation could be repaired. I was guilty of the original sin of America today, ignorance of the world beyond these borders and I show no signs of remorse.

Sadly, I just purchased a quacking baby duck for my Daughter. It was $12.99 and I would have much rather not gotten it for her. She has a lot of toys and is a very imaginative child, she would be just as happy with stuff around the house and her own thoughts. In an effort to avoid buying this, I told her to get this toy she would need to give up five other toys to less fortunate children. She rattled off four things immediately and could not decide between which of two toys would fill that last spot. Bested, I picked up the duck and looked at the packaging which read "Made in China." I imagine had that said "Made in the U.S.A." it would have cost $22.99 or more. At this point, a week before payday, I was thankful. I wonder how much of this computer I am using was made in China? The clearest message we could send to China's government, businesses, and people is that we benefit from our relationship. Let us maintain that relationship by ensuring that the basic human rights are being protected and the land isn't being ravaged because of it, for this is the role of government in these matters. If there is no negotiation, we must be prepared to sacrifice and walk away until they are ready to deal with these demands. They would miss our dollars as much as we missed our plastic utensils, etc. Who has the courage to both defy China and ask the American people to sacrifice so that we may be united in the face of the American ideal?

But still, trying to douse the torch is a bit of a waste. Instead lobby your representatives, senators, and governors to take a stand on this issue and address it. Despite the internet and 24-hour cable news, the world does not change overnight. I suppose the one benefit these torch protests have had is in exposing the ridiculously wasteful way they treat this torch, as if it were a person. It is a painful reminder that all traditions need not be honored. If President Bush does not attend the ceremonies, will it be seen as a statement against human rights or as a slight to the possibly the largest country we are indebted to? We are treading on very shaky ground at the moment. If we do chose to speak out against what is, on paper at least, an ally of the United States, we must do so unequivocally and we must send a clear message to all involved that we will not stand idly by while the world does business on the backs of the unfortunate and at the expense of our future generations.

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