My Fuzzy Slippers of Doom

My sister wrote this. It’s from a personal e-mail, but she said I could share it, if I thought anyone would care. I do, or at least I hope. My sister is a very talented writer (IMHonestO), and her message is moving. I had to share.

Hi all,

 As you may already know, mass mailing is not really my thing, but I have something to say now and it's kind of important. All of you receiving this message know me and I hope that counts for something. This isn't an urban legend or typical internet hysteria and I won't ask anyone to forward it to anybody. Just, please, think about it for a while.

 A few weeks ago I was reading an old magazine and stopped on a story I hadn't read before. It was not only about politics, it was about the politics of a foreign country and I have to be real desperate to even fake interest in that sort of thing. But this one caught my attention pretty quickly. It was about slave labor prisons in China. I've heard a lot of jokes on that subject, a lot of sarcasm and asides, and never really listened. But this was impossible to ignore. They told stories of men and women imprisoned for speaking their minds, a right guaranteed by their own Constitution and ignored by their government, to be tortured and starved to death while they work to make their unjust country rich. There were photos taken by a former prisoner who returned undercover years later to try and obtain proof. He returned with pictures of inmates standing naked in waist deep vats of acidic dye coloring rugs and clothing for export. Those workers don't last long and have to be replaced often but in a place where anyone can be imprisoned for any reason or none at all, more workers are easy to come by. They live in concrete cells with no blankets to cut the drafts and no more to eat in a day than what most of us leave on our plates in a single meal. And they do it for decades, if they live that long, because release is rare in a place with no democracy and no justice in the courts.

 I read this and I cried for those people, vowing to never again buy anything made in China. Then I mostly forgot about it. Last night I was looking at another old magazine, a little more current than the first, and found another article on the same subject. This one focused on individuals and told the stories of some who were imprisoned for their part in the Tienanmen Square protest/massacre. I had thought of them as the lucky ones, the protesters who missed being crushed by tanks as they marched. But they weren't. For the last eleven years many of these people have existed in the living death of Chinese labor prisons. It gave me something to think about as I cooked dinner and then I forgot again, for a little while. Then I saw that while preparing our dinner, I had spilled something on my new house slippers. I've only had them a few days but they're just great. Bright yellow deep plush with black eyes and a goofy grin stitched on the tops. They keep my feet warm as toast and everyone in the house has to smile when they see them. But while I was washing off whatever it was I spilled, I turned my slipper over and saw those fatal words stamped on the bottom. Made in China. They'd trapped me again with their smiley faces and low prices, after all my good intentions. But never again. The idea that my adorable slippers may have been made by thin hands weak with hunger and trembling with cold, hands that belonged to a man who committed the crime of making a speech for democracy or reading an unapproved newspaper, spoils my cheap joy pretty quickly. And even if they aren't a prison product, the money I paid still goes to to support the government that makes those prisoners. So I'll wear my fuzzy slippers because the sight of them breaks my heart and guarantees I won't forget again.

 I went to Mark in tears with this revelation and he was sympathetic, as always. He said that the things we might think would help probably won't. No rallies or marches or petitions will end this tragedy. The only thing I can do as a person is to not buy their merchandise and convince just one other person not to also. Then that person could convince one other and eventually, if enough people boycott, our government may listen and intervene. Now I don't know if I believe that or not. We've all heard the saying "One billion red Chinese don't give a damn" and that's probably true. They don't care what I do or don't buy down at the local Wal-Mart, but I do. And even if I can't change the world, I can sleep a little better at night knowing that I at least noticed.

 If this isn't enough to change your mind I understand. I have a friend from China who admits to the truth of these things but I won't use his name. He wants to go back some day. So let your conscience guide you and buy as you will. But if you do still purchase merchandise made in China, please don't give it to me. My fuzzy slippers are all the pain I need.

Bonnie Morse