Saturday, May 15, 2004

Synthesis- First Draft

In what ways has America gone down hill?
America has become an ever-lasting symbol of freedom, equality, hard work, prosperity, and open-mindedness, which shines brightly and glamorously towards many of the underprivileged and lesser-developed countries of the world. However, as some foreign peoples look to our nation in awe, some view it with disgust and anger, as do many Americans themselves. It seems that our country has lost some of its respectability, some of its values. No longer do school children respect their parents or teachers and no longer does the concept of hard work reach all corners of society. Unemployment rates continue to climb television becomes more and more offensive, and the concept of a unified American people is becoming hideously unrealistic. Americans are becoming lazy, obsessive, and hateful, as well as hypocritical.
Apart from being one of the “seven deadly sins,” sloth has become one of the most destructive factors eating away at American society. How often do we find ourselves perched in our Lazyboy, remote in hand, Doritos resting beside our bottle of Pepsi or Dr. Pepper? Our nation has become one of shortcuts; we go to great lengths to lessen our work loads or to invent some sort of gadget that will perform the most meaningless task, in hopes that our lives will be made a little bit easier. This trend has been sweeping the nation since its creation, but now more than ever it is physically rearing its ugly head. By creating fast food restaurants, microwaves, televisions, and video games, along with the diminishing demand for physical labor, Americans are allowed to baste in the ease of their lives. It is a commonly-known fact that obesity is becoming one of the most deadly diseases in this country, not because these people don’t have jobs or make decent livings, but because we rest and allow our brains to soak up cathode rays or Twinkies. It is simply too easy to pop a frozen dinner into the microwave than to hand-make a nutritious meal representing all of the food groups. Our lives, while becoming physically easier, have become more fast-paced and somewhat complicated. We simply don’t have time to cook or clean and rely on McDonald’s or Taco Bell to feed our families. Video games and television raise our children and, when we find ourselves with a moment of free time, we feel that we deserve to rest and plop into our favorite chair for a nap.
Richard Billingham’s Untitled, 1995 represents this American sloth in an incredibly revolting manner. The photograph is of a woman sitting at her coffee table, putting together a jigsaw puzzle. What makes this image genuinely crude is the laziness and physical appearance of the woman: overweight, tattooed, greasy, and in an environment surrounded by cigarettes and clutter (553). This is America’s demise; the sloppy, dirty, and unkempt human digging through a box of puzzle pieces while trash piles rise from the floor. The United States used to be a country made of hard-working farmers, who spent all hours of the day plowing, harvesting, and attending to other back-breaking tasks. Now, as proved by Billingham and common sense, our nation is falling to a society of slothful, filthy “resters.”
Resting occupies most of the population, but obesity has not yet claimed this majority of citizens. Another American problem, directly opposed to such corpulence, is the fascination and obsession we have with ourselves, our bodies, and images. The people we see on television and in movie theaters are thin, young actors who occupy our definitions of beautiful and attractive, and, naturally, we want to be just like them. As a result, magazines and commercials portray models that look like corpses rather than highly-paid icons, plastic surgery arises as one of most lucrative businesses to date, and anorexia and bulimia continue to haunt the nation’s teenagers and young adults. “[T]hese disorders reflect…our increasing fascination with the possibilities of reshaping our bodies and selves in radical ways, creating new bodies according to our mind’s design” (Bordo 559).We push our bodies to the extreme in an attempt to look like others and are constantly reminded of our “culture, which is continually encouraging us to binge on our desires at the same time as it glamorizes self-discipline and scorns fat as a symbol of laziness and lack of willpower” (559). We are forced to live with this ridiculous double-standard and a constant message telling us that “fat is one of the worst things [we] can be” (558). It is no wonder that Americans are infatuated with the idea physical perfection and the idea of sacrifice to attain this state. The media, fashion designers, and models drive our obsession and, perhaps, our shallowness, as well as our vast array of eating disorders. America has lost its sense of individuality to a sense of uniformity and envy. We might promote the many different cultures and races present in our country, but it is plainly seen that the U.S. consists of one people hell-bent on looking like a select few.


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