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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Americans Need To Tend Our Actual Communities, Not Virtual Ones

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Recently in my local Northern Virginia grocery store, I noticed that some goods, rather than having little tags advertising “50% off” or “Buy One, Get One Free,” declared they were products of an “Asian-owned business.” Tea, rice, and even beer possessed these markers — the month of May is Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Yet the real kicker was none of the products being promoted for these “diversity and inclusion” credentials were from the United States but from India, Thailand, and even China. These weren’t even Asian-American products, they were simply Asian.

Why, one might ask, should American consumers prioritize products from halfway around the world, especially over those farmed, harvested, brewed, or packaged in the United States? Why should Americans be more concerned about the economic well-being of citizens of other nations over those of our own? And why should we be promoting the purchase of goods made in countries known for egregious human rights violations, and in which many companies are allowed (and even incentivized) to employ unjust, brutal, and even slave-like labor conditions?

It seems Americans are increasingly more amenable to loving the abstract community than their actual, flesh-and-blood neighbors. They are eager to do good for various identity groups marked by race, sex, or gender that burnish their own credentials as socially just citizens.

There is, admittedly, less glory (and less opportunity for that picture-perfect social media post) in doing mundane things for one’s neighbors, in helping local businesses stay in business, or in performing community service. As several studies have shown, volunteerism is declining among Americans.

The dramatic decrease in religious affiliation among America’s younger generational cohorts, as well as the slow death of many Protestant denominations, is part of the problem, given that faith groups are vital to the nation’s social safety net. Nearly one in six Americans don’t know the name of a single neighbor in their community, and those numbers are worse for millennials.

Persuaded by Big Tech’s promises that social media can provide real, robust relationships, Americans have embraced “digital communities.” This isn’t just Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Even Peloton claims its

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