Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Four Biggest Things That Creep Me Out about the U.S.

I've been out of the country for a year and a half, with the exception of a couple of weeks last year. I expected to just slide right back into the culture here, like riding a bicycle with a big "Aaaaah." Not so. I feel uneasy. Whether the USA has changed or I have changed, I am not sure--probably a mixture of both.

I don't want to dwell on my existential crisis about not feeling at home in either country, but I do want to mention the biggest things that creep me out about the U.S. since I have been gone for a while.
  1. The obesity epidemic. Seriously. Yesterday I was in a coffee shop, and as I watched people walk by, I did not see one person who looked to be their ideal weight. A lot of people looked like they could shed 15 lbs. or so (including me), but there were a scary number of people that are going to (if they don't already) have serious health problems. The food portions everywhere are huge, and made of layers of carbs, fat, and salt, made to stimulate our pleasure centers. We are being manipulated into eating. If everyone were addicted to drugs there would be an outcry. But being "addicted" to eating seems to be O.K. Weird.
  2. The news. The majority of news on television is awful. It's emotional, sensationalistic, puts celebrity in front of serious issues, and just plain trashy. I'm sure a lot of Argentina news is the same way, but I don't understand enough Spanish to get it. If the food companies are manipulating our food cravings, the news stations are manipulating our emotions.
  3. The car culture. At least where I am, in the California suburbs, you have to drive to get anywhere. No corner shops or pubs where people run into each other. The only time neighbors get together is when there is a robbery or the old lady across the street died. We are all isolated from each other.
  4. Religiosity. I just spent a year and a half in a country that is 80% or so Roman Catholic, and no one mentioned God the whole time I've been there (almost-expat Americans did.) The truth is, most Argentines are religious in name only- it's a tradition more than a belief system. Religion is for weddings and funerals, Christmas and Easter, and the rest of the time, real life presides. I cannot believe the number of Americans that think the earth is 10,000 years old or younger, or believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. I know I am biased as an atheist, but I think even believers from other countries would be creeped out of they knew what most Evangelicals believe, and how serious they take it.
I still love the United States. The National Anthem makes me cry every time. But coming back after some time away has made me see it in a way I couldn't before. I feel a little more like a stranger.


Rita said...

I like your observations. The obesity, and news are a big issue for me. But our politics and taxes are even moreso my issues. Where is this country going?
I think you notice it more now, because your eyes have been opened and once they are opened it is hard to ignore these blatant things.
I do notice that when I travel and return home, I see more negatives than I want to see.
I still love the good ol' USA.

Nicola said...

I really missed sitting down in the cafes when I returned to the US. I'd have to force my friends to drink our oversized starbucks' lattes in the actual coffee shop.

As for food consumption, you should see the movie "Food, Inc." while you are here. Very good film.

Hope to see you if you make it up to SF. There's plenty to do within walking distance!


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