November 2014

Vote local

Black Friday, the start of the holiday shopping season, looms just around the corner.

Who will be trampled this year in the frantic quest for heavily discounted electronic devices, the lure of which crosses all political, social, and racial lines? (Football pads, helmets and Kevlar vests can prevent serious injury or worse!)

We are fortunate in the Four Corners to see little if any of this frenzied standing-in-line at midnight, of hordes pressing against doors and people running and clawing as madly as if they’d spotted someone from West Africa in the distance. But that doesn’t mean we are immune to the siren song of cheap goods.

Why go downtown to buy an item when you can get it for $1 less at a discount store? Why leave your home to shop when, with a few clicks, you can order something and have it sent straight to your door?

Well, think of shopping as a form of voting that is done with dollars rather than ballots. The question becomes: Do you vote for local brick-and-mortar shops or e-conglomerates? Do you vote to keep your dollars here in the area or send them to another state, even another country?

Do you vote for goods made by workers paid decent wages in safe conditions, or products made – often by children — in fire-trap sweatshops?

Do you vote for the United States, or an oppressive Communist country that is probably the leading cause of the approaching extinction of tigers, elephants, and rhinos? China, which only a few decades ago was seen as the biggest threat to the continued existence of this county, our lifestyle and human dignity in general, is now our good buddy that loans us as much money as we want and cranks out most of the cheesy goods our discount giants push as essential to “the good life.” (Just got to have that “Fat Woman” Halloween costume, and that huge Chinesemade American flag that is so much cheaper than one manufactured here at home.)

And the thing is, voting local doesn’t require any teeth-gritting sacrifice, nothing beyond the little effort involved in walking around downtown Cortez or ordering a new book through the local bookstore instead of on Amazon (which treats its warehouse workers very poorly and is loathed by many authors for its war against certain publishers).

Now, we aren’t saying that buying local and buying American will solve the world’s ills, or that it is even always possible. Clearly, there are products you can’t get in Southeast Utah, Cortez, or even Durango. And there are items that just aren’t made in America any longer.

But if you check out your local and your American-made options first, you’ll find a surprising number of goods made and/or sold locally. And your shopping experience is likely to be much more pleasant than that you’d have in a big-box warehouse or dollar store.

And beyond the usual physical goods, there are many creative options for gift-giving this season:

• A gift certificate to a local restaurant, coffee shop, nursery, natural-foods store or locally owned market;

• Some locally crafted beer or wine;

• A night out to see a favorite local band or a SouthWest Colorado Concert or a performance at the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall;

• Personalized greeting cards made by a local printer;

• A piece of art work from your nearest struggling artist;

• A share in next summer’s CSA – fresh produce from a local grower;

• A gift certificate to a gym or masseuse;

• A subscription to your favorite newspaper. (Ahem.)

So vote this year for a robust local economy.

Cast as many of your ballots at home as you can. And, in this type of “election,” we can legitimately say: Vote early, vote often, and vote with your pocketbooks by giving as much as you can afford as “campaign contributions.”

That really would be Citizens United.