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Charles Karel Bouley Headshot

A Sinful Nation

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Denicide can be dangerous (the act of holding up in one's TV area, remote in hand, blankets, pillows, dogs and iPhone).

I committed it on a recent Saturday afternoon and found the Brad Pitt/Morgan Freeman movie Se7en on IFC. I've seen the film a few times, but it's so well acted and directed that out of the 546 channels it seemed the best option.

Well, that was a bad idea. Because as I watched the film and watched Kevin Spacey's killer kill his way through these medieval constructs I realized that these seven "deadly" sins are not only no longer "sins," but have replaced the very fabric of our nation. America is "Guilty!" as charged of almost every one.

Yes, the "sins" originally popularized by the 4th Century monk Evagagrius Ponticus and placed in sermons and literature ever since -- Wrath, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth and Envy -- don't strike fear in many Americans, and certainly not in the power brokers in the country whether in Washington, D.C. or the halls of corporate America. As this last bruising health care debacle will attest, American priorities are a bit askew.

Let's start with Wrath. I can think of no other glaring example that would send Dante to the Quill than the wrath of the United States levied by George W. Bush and the neocons upon Iraq, Afghanistan and many other Arab nations. Torture became acceptable, human rights thrown to the side in the name of retribution, of wrath, of our righteous anger. Even the good of his own people, their own people, was tossed asunder in the quest to execute the wrath of the United States for attacking it on 9/11.

Gluttony. Do I even need to go in to it? We are fatter than ever in this nation -- the fattest country in the world. This month, April 2010, a report came out that only one out of four pregnant women get enough exercise. Once the babies are born, 60% of them will grow up to be obese. We have effectively shortened the lifespan of the next generation for the first time in history because of obesity, gluttony. Everything in this country is supersized. We are oil gluttons, refusing to do things like install solar panels on every rooftop, refusing to raise CAFE standards to a real workable level (instead of the ridiculous 35 mpg they've asked for in coming years to 100 mpg in five) because we want to drive monstrous land barges for cheap, our entire purpose in life to become good consumers and acquire lots of things and debt. Gluttons.

Greed. Authors and columnists could write tomes (and are) on the greed of Wall Street, corporate America, everyday people like Bernie Madoff. A greedy nation that insists it can consume more of the world's resources while being such a small percentage of its seven billion people. Greed manifested in the Health Care debacle, where Congress and Corporate America decided it was not cost effective to grant everyone access to health care, not health insurance, but health care; top of the line health care, universal coverage, all medical necessities birth to death. The fact that one American dies because of lack of access to health care is a large statement on the Greed of America, Americans and corporate America.

Pride. A nation that insists it's #1 all the time in all things when it is clearly not, is prideful. A nation and a people refusing to admit it's fallen so it can try to rebuild is prideful. Assuming we're the best at everything is prideful.

Sloth. Look around. Our infrastructure is falling apart. Our cities are in shambles. Inner cities are disgusting places where rats, roaches, excrement, poverty is all around. We let people live in third-world conditions in this country because of money. Dressing up personally is a lost art. We're fat, we're blousy and bulky. Shows about people who cram their houses full of crap are popular because we've become a nation of hoarders of all things, from resources to superiority. Our financial matters are in disarray. We're a mess.

Envy. It's what drives commerce. Someone else might have something better than you or I, and that just can't be. Some country might have something better and that simply won't stand. The grass is always greener, you always want what you can't have...envy is ingrained in our culture so much that it's cliché. It's what drives marketing. Everybody's body is better than yours, so take this, do this. Everyone's life is better because they do this or they do that, so do it. If you want to be the best, the coolest, on and on, drive this, eat that. Don't just desire it, envy it, live it, do it. Even if you can't. Don't just look with envy upon that big huge house, go buy it, don't ask any practical questions, just do it so you have what they have. So you're not left out. So you don't have to envy anyone.

Lust. Well, come on. We are a sex obsessed culture, schizophrenic in that more than anything else. It's all we talk about, it's all that is used to sell, it's all we care to talk about when it comes to current events, it has spawned industries from the beginning of time, and all the while we have tried to deny that we are creatures of lust; both carnal and materialistic. We lust after power, money, superiority, and yes, each other. Humans are lustful creatures, and it's one of the strongest motivators in nature. And we've embraced it.

Now, I'm not religious. But these seven traits, when left to run amok, are bad for any person or society. It amazes me that in a nation that claims to be so spiritual these seven "sins" have become pastimes; have become objects of desire instead of loathing.

Those Monks were right about one thing, these traits can be deadly. 40,000 Americans will still die in 2011 because of lack of access to health care. The greed of Wall St. never left, is back, and the financial sectors are a mess. People are being encouraged to spend again, to want, to need, to shop without thinking any more about savings than before. Oil is in our future for at least 50 more years and the nation is in no way thinning down. Each of these "sins" is alive and well in the fabric of our nation.

And they're proving deadly.

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