Written by Dale Suderman Wednesday, 20 February 2008 05:18
Americans are increasingly singing, “Make the world go away.” Folks are tired of competing with foreign companies, tired of dealing with immigrants and tired of foreign involvements.
These sentiments are fanned by hot election year rhetoric from politicians in both political parties who promise to keep America strong, its borders secure and to protect Americans from foreign competition.
But the dream of building a border to keep the rest of the world at bay is a pipe dream that only makes sense if you are smoking Mexican giggle weed. Nativist, protectionist and isolationist sentiments have strong roots in mid-western states. Certainly, Kansas is no exception.
The irony is that the only thing native about Kansas is the name—recalling a minor great plains Indian tribe. Contemporary Kansas is entirely the result of globalization.
Not many folks are supporting the wife and kids this winter by bow-hunting buffalo with corn and pumpkins as side dishes flavored with honey.
Farmers in modern Kansas raise wheat, milo and soybeans with cows, horses, chickens, pigs, sheep and a few goats as domestic animals. All of these are alien species and the result of past globalization. They are not native products. (Even the odd llama is a South American import.)
One could debate this while pheasant hunting—the annual local attempts to kill a few Chinese birds.
Or, one could discuss globalization in church. Most Kansans will attend services at Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Mennonite or Orthodox services on Sunday and make at least passing reference to a Jew who lived in the Middle East. There are few native-born religions in Kansas. Denominations are European imports and not American.
Granted a few folks will attend American churches—but while the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Scientists and Scientologists can claim American roots, they are not popular in the Midwest. Even fewer folks will attend local services at a peyote meeting or go to a Sun-Dance ritual that can claim to be native religions. Most Kansans prefer European churches.
Prayers are said in churches for local prosperity—the blessings of good weather and good commodity prices. But even these prayers have a global connection. I remember the late missionary anthropologist, Dr. J.A. Loewen saying at the Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church many decades ago, “Mennonite citrus growers in California hope for a good price for their oranges—then they can support missions and the denomination. But their prayers are really answered when crop failures happen in Florida.”
Today, I suspect, he would use a more international image to make the same point.
Or, we can sit down alone and ponder globalism at the breakfast table. We drink a cup of coffee—most likely from South America or tea from India or China. We eat a banana from Costa Rica or a few grapes—a winter product of Chile. We contemplate a shopping expedition to Wal-Mart—the Chinese import store—and lament the cost of gas, a product of Saudi Arabia, for our drive.
Farmers are, perhaps, the most sophisticated globalists in Kansas. They can triage the nuances of Brazilian soybean production, Australian droughts, European farm subsidies and increased demand for beef in China along with trade disputes with Japan. Their livelihoods depend upon predicting the futures. And the futures are global and not local.
Intuitively they understand the global markets are shifting to three spheres of influence—Europe, Asia and America. The potential for growth is greater in Europe and Asia than in America. America knows how to export weapons and military forces. But increasingly we are selling what the rest of the world isn’t buying.
Today, America, the breadbasket of the world, imports about as much food as it exports.
We may grow tired of the debate about globalism. Some politicians will promise to make the world go away. But we have always been an international and global society. We cannot be like the ostrich—an African bird—and hide our heads in the sand.
You can contact the writer at Dale.Suderman@gmail.com.