Why Fair Trade is important to me

It grew in me like a disease over the course of a couple of years; this knowledge that my Stuff comes from Somewhere.
I can point to a few incidents in particular, but mostly the awareness came slowly, not crashing like for some.

I bought Tanzanian Peaberry coffee to remind me of my dear friend who lives in Tanzania, and she said, “Yeah, we can’t get that here. It all gets exported.” Wait, you mean my Tanzanian coffee is made by people all the way in…Tanzania….? What’s that like?

A friend from India was in my house and picked up a napkin and exclaimed, “My mother makes these!” I guiltily realized I have never even thought about who made my napkins. In fact, I uncomfortably realized that I could not tell you where most of my things were made. Maybe I could tell you where I got them, or if they were on sale…but country of origin? Oh goodness.

As a Christian, I think that I should live the life of Jesus in the world. And I’m not sure Jesus places my *need* for another brown tank top (even if the one I have is kind of stretched out) above someone’s need to be able to provide food and medical care for their family, just because they live in India or China and I live in the U.S.

Now, we all do the best we can with the information we have at the time. We bought our first house around “The time the High Cost of Low Prices” became a thing. I wouldn’t watch it yet, because I wanted to buy paint and curtain rods, and I had this awful feeling that after I watched that documentary I wouldn’t be willing to shop at Walmart anymore and the items I wanted would be twice as expensive anywhere else. And I wasn’t prepared to make the jump to figuring out how to make my own, and I wasn’t ready to justify the expense of paying more and so I just closed my eyes and bought them.

What I’m getting at is that I don’t begrudge anyone their learning process. I don’t think everything I buy is perfect and better than what other people buy. But much of Christianity in my culture focuses a lot on stamping out the injustice we see (like boycotting American Apparel because their advertising is sometimes ridiculously inappropriate–people who feel strongly about this are not wrong) but overlooks injustice we don’t see (is anyone really fooled by those horrible ‘sweater-bot’ commercials Old Navy has been running?? No robots. 12 year-olds in sweat shops in Bangladesh–or somewhere. Their website just conspicuously says “imported” under each item rather than listing a country of origin. The actual garments are still required to be more specific, I believe).

I can not close my eyes to oppression for the sake of my own luxury any more. Because it feels really wrong. And selfish. And like the opposite of everything I read in the Bible. And yes, I felt this way before I started reading The Hunger Games.

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