Not too many days go by when I don’t ponder, to some degree, the question of why America became so fat? We’re a country blessed with advantages, technology, information, equipment, and open space. Yet we continue to expand horizontally and our health continues to plummet, even with incredible advances being made in medicine. The capitalist in me tells me to stop questioning and enjoy the job security. The humanist in me would gladly change careers in order to help the planet. My competitive American spirit is simply pissed off. When did we become the problem rather than the solution?
Nothing brings this to light more than traveling. The first time in traveled to Europe, some 30 years ago, the world was a completely different place. The difference between the USA and, pretty much, any country in Europe was apparent without leaving the airport. America was clean, modern, spiffy. Europe was old, quaint, and in need of repair. Today this has flip-flopped. American airports are over-crowded, stressful, the entire system in need of an overhaul. Conversely, European airports are now clean, modern, and spiffy.
The biggest difference though, by far, is the people. 30 years ago nobody was fat anywhere, at least not that you’d notice in a crowded place. Nowadays, American airports have become a catwalk for what our society has become. I got a text from a friend returning from a long trip to Asia. It stated, simply, “In Denver. Americans are fat.”
My recent trip abroad didn’t cite to me any improvement whatsoever. I landed on a hop to Denver and was greeted by an alarming scene. The entire airports attention seemed diverted to TV screens placed around the airport. My first thoughts were of 9/11. We’d been attacked again or, perhaps, were at war somewhere else. Certainly something major must be happening. The answer, however, shed a bit of light on our obesity problem. These people were focused on the “breaking news” over steroids in baseball.
First off, as an athlete, steroids have been around for 40 years and pretty much readily available. 30 years ago, on the trip to Europe, I knew athletes taking steroids in high school. It may be news to the general public, or our President, but this is not breaking news to athletes. And it’s not important news, or shouldn’t be, to anyone. But it is important in an allegorical sense as it perfectly identifies how we’ve become fat. We’ve become a country that lives vicariously instead of doing things ourselves. Secondly, even though we realize that the media manipulates us, we allow them to do so without a simple squawk. Thirdly, we’ve lost focus on issues that really matter to us.
Taking the third part last, another news story on the day everyone’s world was rocked because “The Rocket” may have been a cheater, was that our country was solely responsible for holding up the world summit on climate change. Now here is a subject that affects each of us every single day. Yet all we seem to care about is whether or not Barry Bonds should have an asterisk next to his records.
All this apathy towards things that really matter allows our corporations to have their way with us. We’ll work longer hours, for less money, with no health care, and no vacation plan, for little retirement, just so long as the Yankees can win another pennant. During the time Roger Clemens has been pitching, we’ve seen the discrepancy between rich on poor in our country widen to the point that we’re, statistically, a third world nation. Our minimum wage has only raised a fraction and is current half of all other first world countries. Our president told a woman who spoke of working three jobs in order to just feed her kids that her situation was “uniquely American”. We’re grown too tired, too busy, too broke, too distracted to even bother with the basic things that we know keep us healthy. When did this happen? It’s not the America I grew up in.
But the real problem isn’t George Bush, the media, or the Enron’s of the world. The problem is us. As a society, we just don’t care enough anymore about what really matters. We need to wake up and take back our lives.
And, literally, that’s all it will take. Sure, the corporate stranglehold and statistical disadvantages won’t change over night. But your health will. And no matter how broke or busy we are become no can still eat better food and find thirty minutes a day to exercise. It’s really as simple as watching less baseball.