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Posted: November 24, 2011 12:00 a.m.

A U.S. Christmas

Only two days before Thanksgiving, there I was with Christmas on my mind, and I set out to scour a few nearby retailers for something new to add to my worn-around-the-edges holiday décor. As I race-walked up and down those aisles, hoping something would catch my eye, it just didn't feel right. The mass-produced Christmas décor - snowmen, tabletop trees, Santas in every shape and size, sparkling deer, boxed ornaments in fuchsia and purple and all made in China - felt soul-less. The look on the faces of the Santas and snowmen was more sober, fixed and shocked than anything that conveyed joy. I quickly decided three things: the old would be better than the new; handmade would be better than store bought, and U.S. made or locally produced is much preferred over anything made in another country, especially China.

I don't mean to sound prejudiced or racist, but it's a fact that the government of China is not our friend. Yet, we ship billions of our dollars there every year for goods and wares made there and bought here. Sometimes I think they are trying to kill us one way or another. Remember the radioactive drywall, melamine-tainted dog food, pesticides on ginger root, lead-laced toys, farmed fish laden with antifungal and antibiotic drugs, dried apples preserved with carcinogens, now tainted honey being sold to American consumers by some of this company's largest importers and distributors of brand-name honey. (Food horrors visited on the Chinese people are even worse that what we have suffered.) I am highly suspicious of foods that do not provide a country of origin label but only say "distributed by" or "packaged by." (Are you listening, Kroger?)

In August, the Huffington Post reported that our Food and Drug Administration inspects only 1.5 percent of all food from China. Chinese food imports from there are increasing 10 percent a year, but the FDA is seeing its budget cut by multimillions every year. And before you take that Vitamin C supplement, consider that 80 percent of it comes from China, as do a very large percentage of active pharmaceutical ingredients used in hundreds of medications here.

But I digress. This is not meant to be a tirade about the dangers of Chinese imports, despite what it seems. It's really about the decisions we can make to protect ourselves as much as possible in a global economy and to promote our own economic interests. When it comes to bought goods and foods, you've got to get educated. Don't think the government is protecting you.

This year there's a nationwide campaign to encourage consumers to buy from small businesses, Saturday being the day called "Small Business Saturday." You'll find lots going on downtown to promote the independent merchants on the busiest shopping weekend of the year.
Many merchants are offering discounts, coupons and free services. And it will be all the better if your shopping list puts "Made in the U.S." at the top.

For years, we've been encouraged to "Buy Local," and I think the mantra has had a positive effect on the communal mindset. Sales tax dollars paid here benefit local government coffers and enable us to maintain services we count on from government. Better to pay sales tax here than in Rockdale County, for example, if you can find an acceptable selection of things you need here. And frankly, you just can't when it comes to clothing for the whole family. "Buy Local" also encourages us to grow or buy homegrown fruits and vegetables, locally produced eggs, milk and honey. Some communities call it "Buy Local. Think Loyal." It just feels good to back our local farmers, doesn't it?

For gifts, you just can't beat the handmade and hand-painted art produced by the thriving arts community in Newton County. One Covington gallery boasts the works of 60 or so local and area artists. Original art includes pottery, woven goods, jewelry, crafts, hand-painted pictures and portraits, wood-turned creations, metal works and more in price ranges that make it attainable for almost anyone. When you give it, you're giving something that's one-of-a-kind. The same can't be said for something you snatch off a shelf or rack at a national retailer.

I am not one of those who stand in line at midnight on Thanksgiving or even 5 a.m. on Black Friday to get the best deals. Risking life and limb in a mad dash to the electronics aisles has never interested me. That's how people have been killed, mind you. Wonder if they'll think it was worth it when they get to the Pearly Gates.


Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. She chairs the Newton Advisory Committee.

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