Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 8/18/2008 [Archive]

The American Diet

The American Diet

By Martha Randolph Carr

Our widening waistlines should have been taken as a sign. Somewhere back in the 1980's we stopped worrying about setting personal limits and started seeing just how far we could push the boundaries of everything. There was no portion control in our eating, spending, burning fuel and even building big, fat houses. Those giant shoulder pads and big hairdos were a reflection of our egos and the path we had decided to take. It was as if the teenagers were left in charge of the country with a couple of credit cards. We behaved like adolescents who are known for thinking there aren't going to be any consequences and if there are, someone will bail us out. It's a sign of how strong our infrastructures (our bodies, economy and ecology), are that we have been able to push it this far. However, payment has come due and all at once in every category. It's caused a lot of hand-wringing and for good reasons.

We're all looking at global warming, childhood obesity and China, who is not our ally, as our second biggest creditor. It's got us wondering what our next steps are going to be.

There are a lot of experts who are starting the drum beat of America's demise as a world leader of any stature and are counting us out. These are learned people who are wondering if we will even exist much longer at all. The great democratic experiment has reached a conclusion. They're using the history of other nations who pursued the same diet of gluttony just before they came to generally tragic and abrupt ends. Only the United Kingdom still survives but even that nation is a tiny version of the empire that used to stretch around the globe.

However, we're the first nation in the history of mankind to be created out of every nationality with an ongoing influx of new ethnic backgrounds. Unlike every other country that has ever existed, we were built by people who were searching to build something better. Our national makeup continues to change as we grow to include others who have that bigger dream and have taken their vision from the theoretical and put it into action.

At our core, we're an on-going experiment of grouping together people with a common desire rather than a common background. That is going to be our saving grace and it is the biggest reason why all of the experts have gotten it wrong when they speculate about what's going to happen next.

In our DNA there is a strand somewhere that has a reset button of optimism. When things are at their worst and the chances look pretty bleak we actually start to believe in the possibilities. It's why we love any story of someone who lost a lot of weight or overcame a serious illness. It's why a tornado in 2007 can wipe out Greensburg, Kansas as if it never existed and the residents don't leave, they rebuild. But this time, they're emerging as an ecologically green town using every new technology available. Or the New Orleans school system, which before it was erased by Hurricane Katrina was thought of as one of the worst in the nation and was plagued by a swirl of problems is now being watched by others as a grand experiment gets underway. Rather than return to the old national standard, the new school system is being built from scratch with a lot of outside help and a plan based on what has been working in similar pockets across the country.

Where others may only see disaster Americans suddenly see a blank slate and then, opportunity. The real question is have we hit bottom yet?

It's true; we've never had to deal with so many issues before that were all at critical levels. That's where our sense of optimism may have been running amok and we started to lean a wee bit toward entitlement. But, that's the past and lamenting right now won't help us move forward in this new day. If we can embrace change once again and start to work together, we may actually come up with entirely new methods of solving old problems. When we started as a nation we were something the world had actually never seen before and most counted us out from the very beginning. We can do that again and set an entirely new standard. The new question to ask yourself then is, what are you doing to contribute to our new bottom line? Send me your answers and I'll share them with everyone else.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: www.newvoicespeakers.com. Author's email: Martha@caglecartoons.com or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com.

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