Buy Local (Unless It’s a Car)

Here's one of seven — SEVEN! — Subarus I counted within two blocks of my apartment.

I understand, in theory, the importance of supporting small, locally owned business. That doesn’t necessarily mean I do it, and frankly, I don’t claim to. I went to college for six years, so yeah, I went to Wal-Mart for six years. Maybe my consumer ethics are askew, but at least I’m not I’m a hypocrite.

Not like some of you fellow Portlanders.

This post is inspired by a series of bumperstickers found on a car parked along our street. I see the car every day, and it stands out because it looks like a sixth-grade-girl’s three-ring binder. If there’s a political stance to be taken, this car has a sticker for it. Most apparent: The owner of this car believes you should buy local.

The only problem is the car is a Subaru Outback.

Walking home from the gym the other night, I decided to count how many Subarus were parked along the street within the last two blocks of my route home. How many did I spot? Seven. And frankly, the number seemed low, because Portlanders love them some Subaru’s. The more stationwagon-looking, the better. Regardless, all Japanese-made.

Now, before this observation begins to sound like a bitter argument on the behalf of American-made automobiles, let me quickly state I drive a 2008 Ford Fusion and I was an employ at Sioux Falls (SD) Ford for three years. However, I do not necessarily support Ford over Chevy or even Ford over Subaru. I don’t care about the whole domestic vs. foreign debate. I say buy the best product available, because in the spirit of true capitalism, I believe competition makes the free market thrive.

What I am saying is how the hell can you get all high and mighty about buying farmer Ted’s produce from a co-op, then drive off in your Subaru Outback? I must be missing something.

Maybe it’s just the fact everyone here drives Subarus. It’s the go-to vehicle for young parents who want to convey that yes, they have a safe, sensible car to seat their young children, but they also have the ability to ram through sand dunes if need be. They have the cargo in back for their labrador retriever, but they also have the rack on top in case they want to shoot the rapids in a kayak or bring home a gazelle they killed with nothing but a machete.

Posers. I bet most of you Subaru owners think your vehicle was made in Australia.

I get caught up in these little hypocrisies because I feel buying local should be a personal choice, not a political agenda. I admire the little boutiques and corner shops and ma-and-pa restaurants and certainly buy from them whenever I can, but it’s never a conscious effort on my part to support local business. Turns out I don’t make enough money to save the world. So, I focus on quality and value. If I can get that from the locally owned store, great. If it means going to Target, fine.

Should their big wiggle room within anyone’s own set of ethos? Absolutely. In fact, to buy your groceries local and own a foreign-made car is completely practical. That’s not what I’m getting at. My feeling is don’t pretend you take a hard-line stance on something, then show the willingness to drive across the line in your Subaru.

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5 thoughts on “Buy Local (Unless It’s a Car)

  1. Hey Miller, long time. Its great to read stuff like this, I’ve always enjoyed your writing in high school, and I’m happy to see your still writing. I’ll have to check up on this blog from time to time. (I don’t think this applys to me since I live in Sioux Falls) I have to tell you I have a Subaru and it was made in Indiana.

    • Hey Tom, thanks for reading! Certainly nothing personal about this post. Looking back, it’s kind of misdirected because Subaru, your right, does manufacture some vehicles in the U.S. Hope things are well in God’s Country. Can’t wait to some day come back.

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