I'd never been out of the country for three weeks before. I missed my kids like crazy and was happy to come home. But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you my return was also tinged with a wrenching disappointment in America.
Three weeks--that's all--and what does our government do? Sign over all rights and privileges, giving carte blanche to Monsanto. I felt betrayed and disgusted, and that was even before I got to the LA airport and saw our country's slow, dirty, and unfriendly first-impression entryway in contrast to Australia's (and that of every other country I've been to) more welcoming and much cleaner version. We are completely paranoid about "terrorists," but meanwhile we are killing ourselves with our own guns. The rest of the world just shakes its head with pity and confusion. (More people died in America from guns in the few months since the events in Newtown, CT, than were killed on 9/11.)
The other news that made it through to me from afar is that we now have a 1 in 50 rate of autism. One. In. Fifty. One in 50 of our newborns will be diagnosed with autism. We see a lot of headlines and media attention about abortion, but why aren't we taking better care of the children we DO give birth to?! People all over the world might complain about the cost of organic food (yes, even in Australia!) but every one has to pay up once it's too late. Everyone except Monsanto.
Or--here is another one--we're always putting on this big show of "supporting our troops" while our troops are killing themselves at record rates. Why are our troops killing themselves? Is it because we've asked them to fight unwinnable wars in places where war just creates even more suffering and rage at America? Is it because we are so busy celebrating the patriotic stereotypes of valor that we don't want to see that these young people are too afraid to ask for help?
I saw all the Facebook profiles change to red equal signs in support of gay marriage while I was traveling. And yes, I COMPLETELY support gay marriage. But again, why aren't we just approving it and moving on to real issues that affect our future, such as corruption in Washington and a flawed and outdated economic system that's crushing us all. After all, what I thought America was always about was FREEDOM. Freedom from religious persecution (remember the pilgrims?). Freedom from rigid class structures that kept the poor poor and the rich rich without working for it. And most important, the freedom to believe anything is possible.
Looking at us from outside in, we are a country that is broken. Fundamentally and deeply broken. But because today we are entertained and today we are fed and today we might be fine, we don't care what impact our behavior has on the future. We are addicted to violence as pleasure. We celebrate violence in movies and the news as if a show of force is what makes us great. We celebrate greed and corruption in Washington and Wall Street, believing that somehow they represent the American dream.
I'm an optimistic person, generally. But after being away, I return to America experiencing this feeling of disappointment and even shame...this feeling that we are swimming in our own filth and not realizing that it's made us sick and insane.
Perhaps not the brightest welcome home message, but one worth taking time to pause and consider. The sad irony is that it only takes a few days of being back to sink back into the insanity and believe it's normal again.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com
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