By Capital Press
It is no secret that Christmas trees -- real ones -- are big business in the West. Last year nearly 10 million trees were harvested from more than 88,000 acres, where the trees form a lush green corduroy jacket on the hillsides of Oregon's Willamette Valley, Western Washington, Idaho and California.
The region's 1,000-plus Christmas tree farms have succeeded by being stewards of the land and growing a renewable crop that sustains the regional economy and beautifies homes across the nation and around the world. The region's Christmas trees can be found as far away as Hawaii, the Philippines, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
It is ironic, then, that well-meaning Americans buy fake trees -- about 80 percent of which are from factories in communist China, according to the Washington Post -- for their homes to celebrate a Christian tradition.
Where, exactly, are these Christmas trees manufactured?
One factory advertises that it makes 347 types of Christmas trees -- and pH indicator paper for litmus tests. For the do-it-yourselfer, another factory sells rolls of poly vinyl chloride so you can make your own "Christmas tree leaves," according to the company's website.
These are just two of the factories American consumers support when they buy fake Christmas trees. The factories are not populated by happy elves whistling while they work, but rather by workers locked into an economic system in which the government profits from their hard work while they make $100 a month, according to the Washington Post.
Against this backdrop, consumers should also consider a recent news story.
Earlier this month, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize. He didn't show up at the presentation ceremony in Norway. Instead, his photograph was placed on a chair as he was saluted for his bravery and perseverance in the face of China's crushing communist regime.
He couldn't make it to the ceremony because he is in jail for the crime of wanting freedom and democracy for China's 1.3 billion people.
He has quite a rap sheet in China's "legal system." His past "crimes" include leading the 1989 pro-democracy demonstration at Tiananmen Square. That got him two years in jail. A 1996 call for the end of China's one-party political system got him three years in a labor camp. And a 2008 call for a new constitution in which freedom of expression is guaranteed got him labeled a "major criminal" and imprisoned for 11 years.
The Chinese communists blocked all news and Internet coverage of the Nobel Prize presentation and bullied 16 countries into boycotting it. The communists even cooked up the Confucius Peace Prize as a counterpoint to the Nobel Prize. Former Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan was "honored," although he was not at the Chinese ceremony and his associates didn't know anything about the award, according to the Associated Press.
Nothing more clearly illustrates the chasm that exists between the U.S., where freedom and democracy are cherished, and China, where government functionaries call the shots and the citizens labor in factories turning out shiploads of goods like Christmas trees aimed at undercutting American growers and workers.
Folks who buy fake Christmas trees from China ought to consider those factors -- along with one final truth:
In the U.S., Nobel Peace Prize winners live in the White House.
In China, they live in prison.