Sunday, August 29, 2010

in which she ponders the waning years of the american empire

i've been pondering this post for awhile. and although gwen recently wrote it far better than i can, i still have to weigh in...you see, when i visited the land of my birth this summer, after 3+ years away, i was a little shocked at the state of things.

i had expected to see signs of a depressed economy and they were there in the little things...more weeds in the cracks on the roads, flaking paint on the light poles, a general sort of lack of road maintenance. but they weren't there in ways i expected them to be. everyone (in the upper midwest, at least) is still driving around in the most ginormous, ugly, ungainly and badly-designed vehicles i've had the misfortune to see in, well, about three and a half years. when i saw the dodges on the road, i tell you, i understood why the company was in trouble (but i wondered why anyone bothered to bail them out, since they clearly had made such bad business/design decisions that they deserved to go under). i know i've said this before, but the vehicles seriously look like tanks thinly disguised as cars. who needs a vehicle that large and bulky? and who can afford to keep them filled with gas, as they must get absolutely rubbish mileage?  so clearly the crisis hasn't been bad enough to drive anyone to consider downsizing to a more gas-economical vehicle.

and on the subject of cars, one of my facebook friends was recently lamenting how sad it was to own two cars and have both of them in the shop. i commented that she could have stopped after the first part of the sentence - as it strikes me as quite sad to be one person, living alone, and have two cars. while i appreciate that a single person cannot drive both of the cars at once, it is still a monumentally arrogant act to think that you are entitled to two cars. what if everyone in india and china felt that way too?

case in point
at the first snack village (my nephew's name for those gas stations with a mini(?) market) we stopped in i was a little taken aback that there was an entire wall filled with your basic jesus-related t-shirts. and just when i had filled my 42 oz. beverage (i wanted a small one, you see) and recovered my shock at the jesus shirts, i wandered into the pop tart aisle. seriously, like 10 feet of a shelf  devoted entirely to pop tarts, swathed in brightly-colored packaging. which brings me to the next shocking thing. people had noticeably gained weight since i was last in the country.  like more than just a few pounds. of course i'm not a twig myself, so i don't mean to point fingers, but this was bad.

and it leads me back to the pop tarts and to all of that packaged, processed food in general, which i'm sure is directly responsible for people looking the way they do. it's so unhealthy. and good odin, the bread, don't even get me started on the bread - husband's eye actually twitched on one occasion while eating a slice of it. the sorriest excuse for bread in the world, in fact, it should be labeled like the cheese is in the US - as a processed, pasteurized bread product and not actual bread. and although i know that most of my readers (at least until after this post) are US-based and most of you are concerned about buying fresh, local produce if you possibly can, it's obvious that the vast majority of people haven't caught onto that. at all. and it's really worrying (unless of course you are a drug company that makes insulin or own quite a lot of stock in one #silver lining). no wonder the US has health care-related issues.

it amazed me how little the whole locovore concept has reached the area where i grew up - which is kind of ironic in that it's agricultural country. i had a conversation with my mother, where she was cussing out the locally-produced eggs available in the grocery store, as although they said "large," they weren't large at all in her eyes. she came home triumphant one day, happy that the store had gotten some imported-across-several-states "jumbo" eggs instead of those dreaded local ones. i asked her if she thought about food miles on those eggs and she looked at me blankly. which is weird because she is otherwise quite a fan of barbara kingsolver.

another worrying trend was the amount of religious fundamentalist billboards. so many that it actually began to seem menacing. somewhere south of sioux city, iowa on I-29, husband and i looked uneasily at one another as we passed a stark white billboard with somber black text reading, "are you ready to meet your god?" there was an exit coming up and we glanced at the children in the backseat, wondering if we'd have to somehow defend them from snipers, the billboard seemed so threatening.

now, having grown up in a town with 12 churches, i knew that there was a religiosity in the US, so i'm not saying that it's new, but it struck me that it's become so much more aggressive. it used to be ok to just quietly be your religion, but now it seems that you must display your christianity (because that seemed also to be the only option) much more visibly. of course, i also realize that freedom of religion is one of the basic tenets of what it means to be american. however, i'm not longer sure it would be ok to be a religion other than evangelical christian. not if you judge by the roadside advertising and the lit-up ticker-style signs on all the churches in every little town in the upper midwest. it's undoubtedly different on the coasts and in larger cities, but this is the heartland. and it's worth taking the pulse there to see what's really happening.

but perhaps the most shocking experience of all was listening to the "news." for one, there's scarcely any news it in anymore...just a poorly-argued string of predictions as to the demise of this or that politician or hollywood star. it seemed that there's no reporting on what actually happened or real analysis of it, but just a lot of shouting by heavily-made up, coiffed people who may at one time have been involved with the miss america pageant. at least in south dakota, on the local news they still talk about the weather, but even that is a bunch of more or less wild predictions. 

it seems to me that americans are expending an awful lot of energy and resources protecting themselves from "enemies" - behind strident religious slogans, in shouting news-free opinion casts, in tank-like vehicles and underneath layers of fat. and i find it really worrying. and sad. and wonder if it doesn't look an awful lot like the waning years of the holy roman empire, only with evangelical preachers, fox news and reality television.

42 comments:

Will said...

It's all true. I'm certain there are more than a few PhDs being written on the spin-down of the American culture.

Christians - the rightwing ones at least - seem to think Christianity is under attack ... most political conservatives and rightwingers also have twisted things enough that they too think their militarism is the only way to stop Change.

Orwell's 1984 is happening in front of us and the trend doesn't seem to slowing down.

Of course, America WAS founded by religious extremists ... we give them the friendly name "Pilgrims" but they would be right at home with militant missionaries, Faux News, Sarah Palin and all the rest of the rightwing.

Regarding big cars and fatty people... maybe there's linkage between the two.

Tara Thayer said...

have i told you lately that i love you?
xo,
tt

Snap said...

I couldn't agree more. News? It's a joke and we find ourselves listening or watching CNNInternational and NPR and hoping we will actually see/hear NEWS...not the same old slop. We read the Economist (yeah, yeah... i know, but it's better than anything published in the USofA and we can read about other countries). Don't get me started on religion ... ACK! (From your favorite EpiscoPaganBuddhist). It is very frightening that *we* can't see the forest for the trees and how backward we have become.

Miss Malorie said...

I love what Will said about 1984 happening before us. I love that book, and it's one of the few texts I've ever read that has frightened me and fascinated me at the same time. (Beloved by Toni Morrison has the same effect on me.)

I can't say my neck of the woods (Florida) is exactly the same as where you grew up (we're not the Midwest, after all), but we do have those tank looking vehicles, and the news is just as bad. Quite frankly, all the news does is report who got shot, what the weather will be like (which in Florida, generally only alternates between sun and rain, heat and lesser heat), and who got shot in a different part of the country. It's quite depressing.

sarahowens said...

Once again you have captured everything I've been thinking for so very long but could not put to words through the anger and sadness of what we Americans have become. Thank you for writing this. Thank you, thank you, thank you. All of a sudden I don't feel so alone in how I feel.

Cinner said...

Hi Julochka, I want to say thank you. I am the winner of one of your lovely feather stones. I wanted to thank you for your kindness. You have a beautiful blog. very in depth on this subject. I believe to each their own, but sure don't like being told what to believe or that I need saving, etc, and I don't believe you have to go to church to be a christian, To me my God is everywhere and there always. take care and thank you again. I am a new follower.

Lisa at Lil Fish Studios said...

What I think is sad is that I am an American, am a midwesterner, and fully recognize each and every one of these points about our country. It begs the question...how bad is it that we, the involved, even see it? Pretty bad.

I won't even start about my feelings about the food in this country. Where it comes from, how it's processed, how it's packaged, how it's sold, what it contains, what it costs... It will lose my manners.

We need a serious shift in attitudes here. Lots of 'em.

Leslie said...

For so long now I have been feeling disillusioned with America and your post lists many of the reasons why. Thank you for writing it.

This is a scary place to be these days. And it seems like hardly anyone sees what's happening. What was once, I imagine, a great nation has turned into a huge joke. A big, fat, unthinking, gas-guzzling, fear-mongering joke. Everyone's pointing fingers but nothing's changing. Every time someone tries to change things, someone screams "SOCIALISM!" and scares the crap out of everyone.

Meanwhile, my husband and I continue to pay $500/month for our health insurance for the two of us + our 15 month old, and we are going broke because of it. And that's not even the saddest part. The birth of our next baby, due in November, is so far uncovered by insurance - because we are planning an out of hospital birth with a midwife.

Thanks again for writing this post. I shared it on Facebook. I'm sure more than one of my "friends" on there will call me a socialist. ;)

Leslie said...

PS - Here's something you may enjoy. :)

http://rebekkagudleifs.com/blog/2010/08/04/excess/

CatLadyLarew said...

Well said, Julochka, well said!

Anne said...

I'm somewhat insulated (ha) from most of what you describe, but not so insulated that wasn't nodding along with you throughout the post.

What you say about religion is spot on. Did you hear about the suspected arson at the construction site where a new mosque is being built in Tennessee? So sad. I don't know why we can't just live and let live, and do the right thing more than just once in a while.

As for food... well, don't get me started. I know I sit on a mountain of privilege, and that most people in the U.S. don't have a year-round farmer's market within walking distance of home (or the money to buy fruit/veg/eggs/meat grown sustainably by people paid a living wage), but it makes me all kinds of angry and sad that there is so, SO much bad food in this country.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing to me is that for far too many companies, it all comes down to profits and how much they can squeeze out of a dollar. If it means putting crap ingredients in their product, so be it. If it means contributing to metabolic disorders, so be it. If it means keeping living, breathing, feeling animals in the most inhumane conditions imaginable and putting toxins in the environment, so be it, as long as they keep their shareholders happy. Never mind that it's killing both people and the environment.

Okay. Off soapbox, onto the thesis-writing train. Thanks for this post.

Delena said...

I hear you about the bread. It is the worst bread I have ever tasted. This coming October when we go to Yuma I plan on bringing my own flour and making bread.

mrs mediocrity said...

It is all so true, and so sad. I stopped watching the news earlier this year, which feels somewhat irresponsible, but I just couldn't bear it any longer. We care more about celebrity in this country than health care, more about designer anything than healthy, fresh food.
There are big, big problems.
Having said that, there are still good people everywhere. But something has to change.

The Painting Queen said...

well from these comments I see we are not alone... even though the fake media acts as if we are the crazy ones.

Turned off the TV a year and a half ago because we were tired of "Big Brother Corporation" and their mind numbing nothingness.

Been spending time researching all the local farmers markets and CSA's because I don't like the food choices in our stores.

If you watch the beginning of Michael Moore's film "Capitalism: A Love Story" you will see his Roman Empire metaphor. There are good points in his film about how we need to try a new way of being. The extras are quite informative too.

Every time someone wants to spend the peoples money on the people (what a concept) the fear mongering Corporate lobbyists label it with the word socialist. Who cares! I don't care if it is called socialism, the people need help. This system of giving everything to the richest one percent is nuts. Look a what a mess it has got us into letting those corporate and banking people infiltrate the government. The 'greed' can never be fed enough. They always want more. Now we are in a never ending war to feed the machine of greed.

More of us here need to say no to the sickness of profits over people.

Not all fat people are that way from poor food choices. I had been eating better and better as I grew older. Last year I was diagnosed with Hashimotos disease which is hypothyroid and equals no metabolism to burn anything I eat. My immune system is attacking my thyroid. I don't know...maybe it was all those antibiotics they put in the chickens in this country.

Anonymous said...

I can see that the numb-minded ones choose to be that way because it is easier than facing the realities before us. Such self centered arrogance here, it is the American way that protects your sorry selves from the threats that surround us every day. You are blind, pathetic children. I turned off the news because people like you are so stupid to believe the drivel and posturing from the pseudo leaders and their minions!

Jill C. said...

I totally agree with you! It is sad.

julochka said...

thanks everyone, for your comments and your own stories - they make me breathe a big sigh of relief.

i find it very interesting that the only dissenting comment hides behind "anonymous" rather than standing behind what they say. thereby actually supporting my argument much more than undermining it...

and lisa, as for a label of socialist, i have a hard time seeing that as perjorative. :-)

Linda said...

I see the sames things when I visit the States-the endless necessity to drive everywhere and the shopping. It seems to be everyone's goal in life. My parents are very religious and love Fox network and I am appalled with their comments about Mexican immigrants. France has many problems but I enjoy it much more here. I am seeing more and more processed food which I hate to see.

Elizabeth said...

Hej Julei,

In the Netherlands we have a saying: If you keep them stupid, I'll keep them poor.

If people only 'eat' what the media is feeding them and 'the food' has absolutely nothing to do with stewardship for yourself or our planet because in that there is less stuff to sell,you will see the result.

Tracy said...

As an American living abroad too, for 10 years now, every time I go home to the US to visit family & friends I feel very much the same way. I'm happy to be there, mostly due to seeing my family/friend, but I feel an overwhelming sadness as the state of things. There is almost nowhere to get good, healthy food (eating out is horrible, and don't get me started on the 42 oz. "small" drinks... LOL!). The gossip masquerading as news is no end of frustration--I don't even watch TV or listen to the radio while there, it's a vast wasteland of mind-numbing junk. Where I come from originally in PA there is a lot of evidence of the economic recession hitting hard. But what makes me even more sad is the recession of life & living among the people. Great post, Julochka!

Esmerelda said...

As an American, I can't tell you how much it helps us to see how ignorant, fat and arrogant we are when most of us are already plainly aware of it and are trying our best to change things. Obviously, it's not fast enough for you since you don't live here. It's so easy to criticize when you didn't live through the causes of this crisis (9/11, the Bush years, the huge emphasis on Big Business and the more recent anti-Obama sentiment that's currently roiling this country). Ex-pats certainly aren't willing to help fix the problem but point fingers, yes, very willing to do that. I'm just sick to death of everyone coming to visit for one or two weeks and thinking they have a read on the whole of the American culture. We're in the middle of a crisis and all you can do is point your finger and tell us "You're going down."

Thanks. Really. It's helpful.

Still love you Julochka, but pouring lemon juice on an open wound is just not helpful. And being the third blog in a month that I've read criticizing our lifestyle (when we know it's rotten) just makes me want to jump off a bridge.

julochka said...

esmerelda - some dissent! yay! honestly, i didn't mean this as rubbing lemon juice in the wound, but i have to say that i find it encouraging that you felt it that way. because that means there's hope and because at least you know there's a wound and that's the first step.

but as for me not living through the causes of the crisis, i beg to differ. 9/11 may have happened in NYC, but it happened to the whole world...the whole world is transformed by it. i'm afraid that george w. bush happened to the whole world as well. i think that's one of the things that many americans don't realize...the reach of what happens in america...from 9/11 to bush to global financial crisis. it happens to all of us when it happens to the US.

and for the record, i do my part to effect change by casting my vote in the american elections, as i am still a citizen (tho' it's doubtful i will ever be a resident again).

it's true that i was there only for two weeks, but because it had been nearly 3 years since i'd been there, i think the differences were stark ones. it's harder to see the change when you're in the middle of it and it happens incrementally.

i do feel a bit sheltered on this side of the atlantic from the media circus of the US...our news actually still has news and we still have newspapers and public radio that analyze it. for that, i'm grateful.

but my dear esmerelda, it wasn't a personal attack on you, so please don't jump off a bridge. go out and buy some locally-produced veggies instead...change the things you can. :-) and thanks for saying what you felt here.

Magpie said...

if it's any comfort to you, i don't live in the america you describe.

Vancouver's Enviro Girl said...

Thank you for this. And especially your response to Esmerelda. Because this is EXACTLY what I think most people in the States fail to understand: that everything that happens in their country happens to the rest of us. Their economic crisis took down the entire world economy, especially in the UK. The entire George W. Bush regime made the entire world a far less friendly and accessible world.

I think because most Americans are not educated in their school system, on their news, and at home, about the rest of the world, they live under the false assumption that they are an island, instead of being the drowning empire. It makes me sad for ordinary Americans just trying to live their lives. And Obama, who I believe is genuinely trying to change it for the better.

And yes, when did Socialism become a bad word?

SaraReno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SaraReno said...

We are in the middle of a depressed economy and you feel that because we don’t go out and replace our cars with a more economical model we aren't understanding there's a crisis? I drive a truck, yes it's a dodge and yes the mileage is not good. But the last thing that is on my list of affordability is buying a different car because it costs more money that I don't have. If people are losing their jobs where exactly do you expect they will come up with money to trade in that hooptie for a replacement gas-sipper?

I did not see your friend's post so perhaps my offense is inaccurate but being sad that both cars are in the shop does not imply a feeling of entitlement to owning two cars. Yes, it’s more than she needs and getting rid of one would certainly make her life cheaper but that doesn't make her arrogant. As to how the world would be if everyone in China and India felt the need to own what she does, that could be pointed toward anyone. How many items in your own home are not owned by the average person in China and India? What if they felt the need or the right to own everything that you do, including the things you don't actually need such as photography and art supplies, or to have as much land as you do? These things are nice to have but aren't actually necessary for most people. Does that make you arrogant or entitled simply for owning them? Of course not.

People in the US don't have weight issues because of the pop tart aisle. We have a pop tart aisle because too many people have no self-control. Sadly, though, this is not just a US issue as you would call it, as much news is posted on the extent of this problem showing up in Brazil, India, China etc more and more each year. This is a worldwide problem and though they may not have pop tarts in their countries, they are certainly afforded more and more opportunity to abuse food and they are doing so. I have pop tarts in my house and I make no apologies for it. I also have vegetables and healthy options and I limit the amount of "crap" food that my kids can have. I recall that while I was in Denmark that the family I stayed with laid out a spread for breakfast (which they said is quite common and that they do it often) of breads, jams/nutella, etc for breakfast, more than they could possibly eat, and stuffed themselves with shocking amounts of food. Over eating is a worldwide problem and the presence of a pop tart, however much it offends the organic variety, is not the issue nor will getting rid of them be a solution. Too much food is too much food, period.

As to the religious issues, yes it is tiring to have Christianity thrown in your face. However, we don't have those billboards here in Nevada and I tend to see most bible-thumpers as obnoxious and I ignore them and go on my merry atheist way. The thing is, I don't know many really religious people. Most of the people I know just live and let live. I realize that the whole country is not this way but to characterize the US as a growing zealot population is unfair and wildly untrue. Many poles are showing that the actual number of people who call themselves Christians (much less religious) are declining.

It seems to me that there is an awful lot of blowing out of proportion and sensationalizing in your post. Everything you saw on your trip seems to have been used to make judgments about a population you are increasingly disconnected from and look down on. I realize that this is a blog and, as such, is mostly opinion and your right but I would ask that in future you look at things with more of an open mind. The reason that you did not have more dissenting comments, in my opinion, is that too many people who disagree with you would simply close the web page and move on (as I almost did) rather than speak up for themselves. But, this is also all just my opinion...

My apologies for writing a short novel in your comments...

julochka said...

sara - again, i have to say thank you for your dissent (and for signing it). of course i'm generalizing and i'm also drawing conclusions out of observations over two weeks, which is both not fair and long enough to draw some generalizations. and of course my home is filled with stuff it shouldn't be and which it would be a tragedy if everyone on the planet wanted one too..if only because the iPad would just be less cool then. :-) and yes, it's probably arrogant of me to indulge in such purchases. in fact, i haven't done very well this year at all, which i had decided would be a year of not buying things...so far, we've bought a house, a new (10-year-old) car and a pony. but i have done better on the everyday junk, which was part of the point. am i perfect at it? no, but i am far more conscious than i once was.

and it remains true that i saw a marked difference in the US from when i was last there...

Anonymous said...

So... you're aghast by religion (i.e. Jesus t-shirts), poptarts, and SUV's. ... ... ... You realize most of these complaints are complaints are rather elitist and additionally, moot.

One: America has an obestity problem - but I very much doubt obesity has increased since you've been gone... as you've merely been gone 3 years. You want to see some effects of an economic recession? Well actually, did you know that low socioeconomic status and obesity have a rather strong correlation. People who make less money have to buy cheap food (i.e. junk food and fast food) as produce and yes, even locally grown organic blah blah blah, costs a lot more than a box of pop tarts. Tragic but true. Check the stats. I remember very vividly when I got my first "real" job out of college thinking "yes... I can buy real produce now. I can buy "good" food!" College students are stereotyped as living on top roman and potato chips because guess what? There's no other viable choice for the financially restrained. Something to consider I feel.

For someone concerned about the social injustic of her single friend owning two cars, you don't seem to possess the sensitivities of what a bad economy could mean for general health and well being. Cause it certainly exists. An excuse? No. But here's a newsflash - America IS different than Europe and Europe is different than American in very pronounced ways - SIZE being one. Geographical size meaning different climates and thus - not all states can grow Florida oranges or catch fresh Alaskan salmon. Gonna have to do some importin it seems. Do you know the point of even buying local? The freshness is of course a factor, but mainly it's too feed back into local economies and support local businesses. That's the point... not necessarily the state of the food.

What this post says to me is that someone thinks they are entirely above this country of large vehicles (see: agricultural communities equals a need for large vehicles "oh dahling... do you SEE that ungainly looking vehicle.. I'm simply appauled they must put their fertilizer in the bed of that pickup... ghastly!") as well as having statistically larger families than Europeans (see yet another need for a larger vehicle) and as been mentioned before - I'm pretty sure NOW's not the time to "trade up" for something different when in fact, economic times are bad and a new vehicle isn't necessarily practical. Truly - what do you want? You WANT America to be suffering from economic downturn? Would it satisfy you to witness homeless children and lines at soup kitchens? Would that satisfy your need to "See the economic recession in action?" Truly? If it were me - I'd be pleasently surprised that people seem to be doing okay in hard times. I'd be happy that they can still put their 5 kids in their car and go camping - that they can still haul their livlihood from farms to market - and that they can do it all in the truck they've been paying for the last 5 years instead of buying a Prius because who knows when an American born moved to Europe girl will come back and expect to see us spending less on gas. Do you know the cost of gas in Europe??? Of COURSE people don't buy large vehicles there - you're whole life is contained in a 5 block radius and your livlihood doesn't involve transporting livestock.

It sounds like the European Princess should go back to her kingdom and leave the obese, God-fearing, Americans to worry about REAL social injustices such as poverty, education, and health care vs. "Oh buffy... do you see the detestatble state of this cheap bread? Well, I never!"

Sort of ridiculous don't you think? Pop tarts? Jesus t-shirts? Who cares? I guess we American need to learn something from the red district in Belgium or East side London about what should be "on sale"

Andrea

Anonymous said...

So... you're aghast by religion (i.e. Jesus t-shirts), poptarts, and SUV's. ... ... ... You realize most of these complaints are complaints are rather elitist and additionally, moot.

One: America has an obestity problem - but I very much doubt obesity has increased since you've been gone... as you've merely been gone 3 years. You want to see some effects of an economic recession? Well actually, did you know that low socioeconomic status and obesity have a rather strong correlation. People who make less money have to buy cheap food (i.e. junk food and fast food) as produce and yes, even locally grown organic blah blah blah, costs a lot more than a box of pop tarts. Tragic but true. Check the stats. I remember very vividly when I got my first "real" job out of college thinking "yes... I can buy real produce now. I can buy "good" food!" College students are stereotyped as living on top roman and potato chips because guess what? There's no other viable choice for the financially restrained. Something to consider I feel.

For someone concerned about the social injustic of her single friend owning two cars, you don't seem to possess the sensitivities of what a bad economy could mean for general health and well being. Cause it certainly exists. An excuse? No. But here's a newsflash - America IS different than Europe and Europe is different than American in very pronounced ways - SIZE being one. Geographical size meaning different climates and thus - not all states can grow Florida oranges or catch fresh Alaskan salmon. Gonna have to do some importin it seems. Do you know the point of even buying local? The freshness is of course a factor, but mainly it's too feed back into local economies and support local businesses. That's the point... not necessarily the state of the food.

What this post says to me is that someone thinks they are entirely above this country of large vehicles (see: agricultural communities equals a need for large vehicles "oh dahling... do you SEE that ungainly looking vehicle.. I'm simply appauled they must put their fertilizer in the bed of that pickup... ghastly!") as well as having statistically larger families than Europeans (see yet another need for a larger vehicle) and as been mentioned before - I'm pretty sure NOW's not the time to "trade up" for something different when in fact, economic times are bad and a new vehicle isn't necessarily practical. Truly - what do you want? You WANT America to be suffering from economic downturn? Would it satisfy you to witness homeless children and lines at soup kitchens? Would that satisfy your need to "See the economic recession in action?" Truly? If it were me - I'd be pleasently surprised that people seem to be doing okay in hard times. I'd be happy that they can still put their 5 kids in their car and go camping - that they can still haul their livlihood from farms to market - and that they can do it all in the truck they've been paying for the last 5 years instead of buying a Prius because who knows when an American born moved to Europe girl will come back and expect to see us spending less on gas. Do you know the cost of gas in Europe??? Of COURSE people don't buy large vehicles there - you're whole life is contained in a 5 block radius and your livlihood doesn't involve transporting livestock.

It sounds like the European Princess should go back to her kingdom and leave the obese, God-fearing, Americans to worry about REAL social injustices such as poverty, education, and health care vs. "Oh buffy... do you see the detestatble state of this cheap bread? Well, I never!"

Sort of ridiculous don't you think? Pop tarts? Jesus t-shirts? Who cares? I guess we American need to learn something from the red district in Belgium or East side London about what should be "on sale"

Andrea

julochka said...

well, well, if it isn't another "anonymous" person who doesn't have the guts to stand behind what they say (and signing a name doesn't really count when it could be anyone's name and you've already chosen to be anonymous).

now look who doesn't know what they're talking about...my life is definitely not contained in a 5-block radius (i realize geography isn't an american strong point). and although my livelihood isn't in livestock, i do own livestock.

at least europe is doing something about fossil fuel dependency with realistic fuel prices and sensible car sizes.

why are you afraid to stand behind what you say, ms. anonymous?

SaraReno said...

Ok, Andrea is a bit off the deep end there. :) I disagree with you but that's no reason for flaming and insulting...

Anyway, there are actually less of the great big cars then when you were here last since small car purchases rose a lot after the gas prices jumped a couple years ago. Still a lot, but not more than 3 years ago.

That pop tart aisle has been there at least since you and I were kids growing up here (I remember it, anyway) so that is not different. I will admit that the obesity rates have gone up (looks like an average of 4% ish) though. Though again, this is a worldwide problem and not just an American thing.

I disagree with Andrea that the only reason for local is to feed money back into the economy (though it is a good one, too) as freshness and small farm, etc also plays a factor but she is correct that local just isn't always an option (we have very few local options in a desert) and is more of a possibility where you are, it seems. It's a great idea but sometimes we also have to accept that the imported is what's available.

Religious crazy people have always been around and are no more prevalent than they always were. I would actually say that I have seen/heard less of them (other than the funeral protesting whack job preacher) than I have in past years.

I question if it was really that different or if you perceive more of a difference because you have been so long gone from here (as in, on a regular living basis).

heidikins said...

My dear Julochka,

I love you, I do. But after reading this post through several times, and letting it sit for a few more hours, I can't help feeling a bit on the defensive.

Yes, America isn't perfect. Yes, we as Americans have our flaws. But I think you will find that most are doing their best.

I drive a sensible, small vehicle and routinely get stuck in winter snow storms. My Dad and siblings drive typical "Western" SUV's and have been called repeatedly to come rescue me from November through March. Have I thought about switching to a larger vehicle more suitable to my climate? Yes. Do I? No, because I can't afford it. (See: effect of economic recession.)

I have changed my eating habits drastically in the last few years. I buy produce, a little meat and pasta. I do frequent the Farmer's Market in the summer and buy a few items there. But with a 3-month growing season those opportunities are temporary at best. I would love to buy organic or locally produced meat and produce, my pocket book just won't sustain it. I simply can't afford it. (Again, that pesky economic recession.)

I stopped watching the news, or reading the newspaper years ago. I couldn’t care less about the latest celebrity scandal and I can't be bothered with the political lampooning and muckraking on BOTH sides. No candidate is perfect whether Democrat, Republican, or other. And I think those who hate one side or another should take into consideration that there are flaws within everyone--Obama included.

And lastly, your religious rant. This one actually hits a little close to home to me today--a pastor/Bishop from my church was shot on Sunday in the church building where he spent thousands of hours volunteering to help his congregation. Shot to death at point-blank range by a complete stranger with some kind of vendetta. To you, this Bishop was probably a Christian zealot, one of those extremists that we would be better off without. To me he was an honest, hardworking man who is leaving behind 6 children and devoted wife. (And yes, he probably drives a big vehicle to fit all those munchkins. And they probably shop at Costco which is not exactly the mecca for local, organic food. She is probably a little on the pudgy side, as having 6 children is wont to do to a female form. If you saw them at the gas station mini-mart you would lump them into this very category of people you so obviously despise.)

So while I can see your point of view on the crazy Christians, I will have to respectfully disagree that we are all so terrible and pushy and aggressive. Afterall, I have not heard anything about the zealot Christian shooting his atheist neighbor in cold blood over the weekend. But, you know, I don't watch the news either.

All that being said--I hardly fit the profile of the American you are ranting against. However I couldn't help but feel defensive for just trying to live my life, trying to scrape by in an economic recession that has hit me square in the gut. And it hurts to think that you come here for a few weeks from your (seemingly) fancy European life and scoff at the traditions and lifestyle of a country full of individuals just trying to get by. And it is only slightly ironic to me that the only way I could have possibly read your obvious disdain for my/our country is through a blog--which strikes me as the ultimate culmination in American-style self-advertising and instant gratification.

So yes, I will protect what is important and even sacred to me. I will still love you, but I will stand up for the things that make America my home, warts and all

xox

julochka said...

sara - that anonymous andrea was a little harsh. but with her "dahling" and the princess and all that, she must "know" me and is just too cowardly to stand behind what she says with her real name. and i know pop tarts have existed since time began, but in the gas station?

heidikins - of course i'm not talking about everyone, i'm talking about a marked impression i had after being away. and i by no means despise anyone for this...these are observations and have no such emotional weight to them as strong as "despise" conveys.

i think the emotion i feel most is sadness.

celkalee said...

How interesting. I sort of discovered this blog accidentally but certainly enjoy the discourse. I am a typical American I think. (at least within my geographical and economic area) I am an educated professional, a person of faith, an inquisitive person who tries to eat well, care for the planet and respect all life-forms. I have traveled to high end English and European cities as well as not so high end. I have witnessed astounding poverty in America and abroad. I am sure you witnessed a type of culture shock after having been away only three years. Good. This is America, not Europe and these differences are as essential as not eating insecticide. These differences help to create a balance in the world. The world and our cultures are evolving, some rapidly some not at all. Learn tolerance and attempt understanding of these changes, they will eventually impact you and those you love. Just as the Pop Tart has survived this evolution it appears the Twinkie is right there too. Oh well.....what can you do????

Anonymous said...

Andrea is the real name... but for those who don't have blogs "anonymous" typing is the only option. Little FYI to those very upset about the anonymous post I SIGNED rather than anything else mentioned.

Cheers to Heidi. Said very well... and more... sensibly as mine was rant-esque ;) admittedly. I get ranty when people judge an entire country based on their extensive ( 3 year... cough) experience abroad - even if the bread IS better. I've been abroad my share and love Europe (i.e. London, Paris, and Scotland respectively)because I respect their differences (of which some I prefer) from America. But I certianly wouldn't (and didn't) return to the land of my birth with my nose in the air... kicking dirt in the faces of my country-man, aghaust at their primitive religion and food limitations. Why, apparently it's enough for someone to give up their citizenship! ;)

julochka said...

my dear andrea--i have been abroad for 12 years and i am still a voting, passport carrying citizen of the US. i just happened not to have visited in three and a half years. get your story straight before you rant. or do you watch a bit too much fox news for that....

Anonymous said...

Bwahaha. And we digress. Point is - your comments are incredibly elitist and snap-judged (add Fox news to the snap-judged list). True - my "European Princess" comment may have been on the ranty side of sarcastic and could've been conveyed better (apologies - I tend to sass and then think) - and I agree that wonder bread is gross, obesity is an epidemic, and religious crazies are... well... crazy. But I'd rather live among the obese, the wonder bread eaters, and even the religiously "aggressive" - since billboards are now akin to chinese water torture (and because religious choice encompasses the essence and beauty of American freedoms as opposed to the secularized state of European poltics - i.e. ban the wearing of burqas and naquibs in how many European countries now? Wow... Europe really is the picture of cultural and religious tolerance... I mean just think of all those nutty Jesus shirts in American mini-marts. What is the world coming to? Ban'em!)than along side people who think they're better/wiser/more "in tune" than I am. I'd rather live around the common citizens that behave, believe, and choose differently than I do, because its their right to do so, then next to someone who looks down on me because of what I drive (a Hyundai by the way), what I eat (Whole Foods anyone?),if I worship on Sunday (and I do... did my public religious announcement make you squirm?,) and what I look like. You put down an entire nation because you can't understand why someone wants to wear a religious figure on their t-shirt, eat Doritos, and drive a Forerunner. Sometimes I don't understand people's choices either - but I love that they can MAKE those choice and who am I to condem them for it? Do I know their story? And who am I to visit a country and mock everything about the cultural differences I see? I may not agree - but I certainly won't condem.

America has no use for your pity nor your disdain, truly. Perhaps the next trip to this pitable country you'll be able to mentally prepare yourself for the DIFFERENCES you're going to find. Then again, sounds like a return trip isn't necessarily on the "things to do in the next 10 years" list. Not unless they adious those crosses alongside the highways anyway. What's that about?

-A

Esmerelda said...

Ah crud, Jules. I feel like I started a rain (reign?) of poo-poo on your post and that was not my intention. I think we Americans know (hopefully) what a dire situation we are in and that most of us have either: a) absolutely no idea how to fix it; b) don't think we can fix it; or c) know exactly how to fix it and no other way will do but mine mine mine.

Your observations absolutely aren't wrong or off-base. And you're right - we Americans do not understand how much American policies affect other nations because we do not live there. We have to pay for BBC programming, which is frankly where I get my news (sad). The only thing I can say is that a while back, Time magazine published an article called The Arrogant Empire, which totally sums up the history of how we got to how we are and why we don't understand how our politics affect the world.

I have to admit to you and to the wonderful VEG that I am so busy trying to figure out how to keep my family afloat that I don't really care about how Ireland or Iceland or even our neighbor Canada's economy are affected by US policies. I'm very much in the me-me-me mode and I wasn't like that before 2004 - I considered myself world-savvy, educated and concerned with globalization. Now - eh, not so much - I'm more concerned with where my apples came from and how they were grown and whether or not my condo HOA is going to raise my monthly fees again.

You are still the fairy blogmother and I only said I'd jump off a bridge because ... well, it's okay if I say bad things about women because I'm a woman. But if a man says bad things about women, watch out. I think I get defensive when foreigners (or ex-pats) criticize Americans because when I do it, it's because I want America to be better but when the outsiders do it, I'm not sure of the motivation. Is it mockery? Concern? Glee?

xoxo.

julochka said...

anonymous A - interestingly you seem to want to limit my freedom of speech, but still have yours.

esmerelda - it seems this post touched a nerve for a lot of people. some of them more eloquent than others. my motivation for writing this? sadness. and i still maintain it's very hard to be on the inside of something and be able to observe what's happening.

Sammi said...

I really want to go to America someday, and I really hope to enjoy it. I have every intention of ordering a supersized macdonalds, just to look at how huge it is.

It is sad to read all of this though. I sometimes think American's are an enemy to themselves with somethings, like I can't understand how a supermarket only sells processed foods, I mean there is so much land in America grow it!

Bee said...

I will just say this:
My mother, who has lived in central Texas for more than 45 years now, rants about ALL of these issues pretty much every day I talk to her. The issues that worry her the most are the aggressive evangelical Christianity and the dumbed-down, emotionally manipulative Fox-style news show.

I LOVE visiting the U.S., and miss so many things about it, but I don't think you write one thing here that I haven't observed myself . . . and lamented. I can understand why some of the Americans here might feel a bit defensive, but these are just a set of observations from an American eye/mind that has changed from living in a different culture. And really, the oversized cars in America are CRAZY.

Michelle said...

Why can't we just value the act of being "thoughtful" and "reflective"?

My thoughts about America are informed by living here for 8 years, living in Europe for 8 years and then 20 in another spot. I am grateful to others for being open and thoughtful - I don't have to agree... I just value folks being thorough, and not "knee-jerks" - a new noun for me....

MIchelle/madison