Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fresh eyes on the US

I'm currently home in South Carolina looking after my father who is recovering from surgery for a broken arm. I've been here about two weeks and I'm seeing things in a whole new light after living almost a year in Europe. It's not that I didn't know these things before, they are just so in your face now. Maybe I was isolated in Washington DC living in Dupont Circle surrounded by upper middle class people. But here in Sumter, South Carolina - its quite frightening.

Insanely sensational tv news: CNN, Fox News, and every tv media outlet has seized on comments that Barack Obama made about working class voters being bitter about the economy and seizing on illegal immigration, religion, and guns. But people are bitter! That's why they are voting for someone who is not politics as usual! Duh! Suddenly, Hillary Clinton - she of a Wesleyan college and Yale Law School education is proclaiming how she loves guns and shooting them, as well as doing shots of whiskey. Ridiculous! I can't believe how she panders so shamelessly. I will vote for her if she gets the nomination but this whole primary battle has shown her to be as morally shifty and willing to lie as her husband was. 8 years of Clinton was good for economy but it certainly set the tone for the crazy partisan politics that we have to deal with now.

Guns and Religion: I was in the Wal-mart looking for a little exercise bicycle wheel for my fathers physical therapy when I noticed that I could just as easily buy a rifle for about $150 (or 100 Euros). The guy behind the counter selling them was about 18 years old and wished me a "blessed day" when I left. One of my fellow shoppers was wearing a t-shirt that said "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead, hands" and another one had a "What would Jesus do?" t-shirt on and both were shopping for ammo (which is on the shelf next to the tennis balls).

Gloom and Despair: I have to read the shallowest gossipy magazines in the world to recover from the gloom and despair of the nightly news. The world is ending. There is a 99% chance that there will be a MAJOR earthquake in California in the next 30 years. Or as they put it on the news (It could be tomorrow!!!). Salmon population has declined so much that ther are only 30,000 left. A 27 year old football player was found dead from crack cocaine in my hometown. Women college basketball players are caught selling marijuana and thrown out of college. MOre riots in Pakistan. More people killed in Somalia. Over 4000 US soldiers killed in Iraq. A story in the SC newspaper about a US army doctor going undercover in an Afghanistan hospital to help out while wearing a gun strapped to him to defend himself, probably making more and more hospital workers in Afghanistan legitimate targets of insurgents now.

Obesity and ill health: My father is almost 81 years old and is generally in pretty good health for his age. He's skinny - too skinny- so I'm cooking him anything that he wants to eat to help him recover. So lots of bacon, cream, eggs, and sugar. I live near the poor part of town in Sumter and the nearest grocery store is a Piggly Wiggly where one can buy any kind of pork product in the world (except pate - here its called hash). The amounts of processed foods, fried foods, sugary sodas, and transfat desserts is frightening. The most expensive thing I bought at the store when I went the other day was fresh basil (which I was surprised to find) and an avocado (which you couldn't find until Mexicans moved into town). I could probably buy my weight in twinkies and pork fat for less than I spent on some tomatos. The children here are hugely fat, the adults are fatter, everyone drives big gas guzzling cars which they will sit in and weight for a parking space next to the entrance of the grocery store rather than walk a few feet. I've seen one person riding a bicycle since I got here. Only the wealthy can afford to go to gyms, eat organic food, or be thin in the South. The biggest growth industries in Sumter, South Carolina are drug stores and the hospital. The cancer and diabestes rate is outrageous.

And the list goes on and on....