No Wonder We Are So Fat

Every two weeks, when I get paid, I wake up on Saturday morning and face the ordeal that is Wal-Mart. I detest Wal-Mart but at present I buy all my staple goods there because I feed a lot of people and its what I can afford to do. Andn its great for that. I don’t like the fact that they are known for mistreating their employees, particularly women. I don’t like the fact that they made their original reputation as being the “American made” store but more than half of what they sell is made in China. But you can buy stuff you use all the time for less money than anywhere else; that I like and need. So I make a massive list, check my coupons and head for the store. As I am trolling around the parking lot I am amazed at how crowded it is. It is always like that unless it is the middle of the night when all the meth addicts can’t sleep and need sugar. And around and around you go. Then you can’t go by because people are waiting to get a spot closest to the door; even thought the spot they are waiting for involves people who still have 400 bags to unload into the SUV and two kids to strap in. On the day that inspired this blog I completed my shopping. I came out to the parking lot, unloaded my groceries into my car noting as I did so that there was a very large SUV standing in the middle of the way, entirely blocking me from backing out. So I put my cart away, got in my car, putting on my seat belt, turning on the car, putting it in reverse. And there I sat, for a solid five minutes whiile big SUV waited to save themselves 20 steps. The “obesity problem” has been back on the news a lot because it is summer, the season of the swim suit crash diet hysteria; as if you could lose fifty pounds between May and July. Now refocus and imagine you are in Wal-Mart. Think of the people you are seeing there; imagine the foods in their carts. How many of them are huge? Downright obese? How many of them are wearing clothes at least a size too small? How many of them are wearing spandex, making you want to turn away because you didn’t want to know that much about them? How many of their children are frighteningly fat? Now… how many of them have fresh food in their carts… not many, huh? How many have fresh vegetables or fruit? You get an idea of the state of American health by seeing how much frozen, boxed, bagged and canned food you see on the conveyor at the checkout. If we only eat frozen, processed, fried food, and we can’t walk a few extra steps from the car to the door, no wonder we are so fat.

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Beat down in Walmart

They thought he was a snitch so they beat the crap out of him, in public, on camera. And nobody did a darn thing to stop them. Now this is not the first story about unresponsive bystanders, there have been studies and articles and whole areas of sociological work based on this phenomenon. I am interested in something a little different. The news media, in reporting this story, took a remarkable position by the way in which they reported the story. The slant was that this was a terrible thing  because he wasn’t a snitch.  So according to the media, the problem with this whole incident was that the people administering the beating were mistaken ??????  I took from this that if, in fact, he had been a “snitch” of some kind, the news would have applauded the beat down.  Since when do we approve of gang vigilatism?  If he was a corporate whistleblower rather than a suspected street snitch would it be ok to assault him?  The wheels of justice don’t grind at all without “sources” at all levels of the legal system.  And, don’t we teach our children to stand up for what is right.  And couldn’t you be considered a “snitch” if you did this.  I remember many discussions with my son about what you have to or should tell adults about what your friends are doing.  He is intensely loyal and felt strongly about not ratting out friends.  The deal we struck was that if the activity in question would harm the kid or others, he had to tell and we would do our best to keep it anonymous.  But we would do what had to be done.  We all decided we could live with that.  And I explained to him that it often doesn’t make you popular to stand up for what is right, to tell on people when they might harm themselves or others.  The person might never speak to you again, but isn’t it better to have a safe, healthy ex-friend than a dead friend?  Tough trade off but a necessary one if you are going to live an ethical life.  And I would never have expected that my son might endure a beating if he tried to do the right thing but I suppose it could have happened.  Would the news applaud if silence meant a teen suicide?  Or a high school shootout?  No, they expect the kids to tell.  But why should they if message we send is tell and we’ll stand by and watch when you get beat up for telling.

BP, The Release Forms and Show Me The Money

Hoo Boy. All in one title. So in addition to the environmental debacle of the century, now we have to worry about BP going broke????? Based on their profits this seems laughable but… at least one industry observer has said that at the very least they may have to sell off profitable holdings at fire sale prices in order to meet their obligations.

So let’s talk about their obligations. A few of the earliest stories, before the endless failed attempts to stop the flow of oil took the front and center, were about the people who were hurt or killed in the initial explosion of the rig. And what emerged from those stories was that people who were hurting, exhausted and focused only on contacting their loved ones to let them know they were alive were pressured into signing release forms regarding their ultimate right to recompense from BP for their injuries. At the time they signed these they didn’t even know, many of them, what their injuries were. They were distraught, their families were distraught and BP took advantage of them, pure and simple.

So this is atrocious in and of itself, but what is the lesson? Corporate role modeling in the last few years has been abysmal. Enron, corporate greed, wall street, stock and banking greed, mortgage banking greed and the complete collapse of the economy have all taken a main place in our daily news. The economy is “improving” but true jobs and especially real estate prices are not. They will be a long time coming at least in some parts of the country (like where I live). The lessons apparent are every person for themselves, the hell with the planet, the injured and the working folk; get what you can and screw the rest.

I think we are too litigious in this country by far these days. I think that there is an attorney to take every stupid claim and make it law. But I believe deeply that our judicial system can be an instrument for good, can be an instrument for change. I deeply hope that some “do-gooder” lawyers take up the case of those poor oilmen, tired, hurt and afraid, who signed those disgraceful releases. I wish I could be one of them.

My generation was idealistic, we thought we could change the world and to some degree we did. So what happened? I guess I retain some of that idealism, although I don’t think sometimes that I have adequately passed it on to my son. Isn’t it better to model an idealistic failure than a narcissistic success?

The Middle of the Road

Listening to a story on public radio, as by now you all know I do often, I heard an amazing story. There is an “encampment”, for lack of a better word, of earthquake refugees who have set up their tents on the median of a six lane road. Some of the shelters are wood, some nothing but a tarp. Some sell small necessary items from open holes, some have windows that close. A whole village has evolved on that spot.

Across the road are port-a-potties. They are often full and unusable. l leave the result of that problem to your imagination. Aside from that, you have to cross three lanes of traffic to get to them at all. There are children living in this median village. The visual is a difficult one; how worried those mothers must be. But people will always cluster together. One mother said she wanted to move to one of the planned camps but has heard that all the spots are already taken.

Median means the center, the average. Thus the phrase middle of the road, it is the center, the average, the place that doesn’t rock the boat, the balance place. So how is living in the median of a highway the middle of the road? How is it balance? Although I believe where there is breath there is always hope, this seems to me the bottom of the barrel, the most hopeless of situations. It is heartbreaking. But Haitians seem to have a boundless reserve of faith and optimism. They have an amazing resilience that is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

For these Haitians, it seems, the middle of the road is the end of the road.

Good Sportsmanship ~ A Rare Commodity

So the first disclaimer here is… I don’t give a hoot about baseball. Good to know dear readers. However, I listen to the radio on the way to work and I heard, incidentally, the wonderful story of the near perfect game. I don’t normally listen to sports news, but this wasn’t really sports news it was sportsmanship news. I had already seen clips of it on the morning news (it was not reserved for the sports segment). Everyone, I think, knows what happened. Armando Gallaraga of the Detroit Tigers was one out away from a historic “perfect game”. I think there have only been 21 in the recorded history of baseball; not many. He pitched, the Cleveland Indians hitter got a bat on it and ran for first. First base umpire Jim Joyce called it out, thus ruining the otherwise perfect game. The players looked at replays and everyone agreed the runner was not safe. But the rules in baseball say that replays are only for questionable home runs. As Matt Lauer put it on the Today Show this morning, if they add more instant replays, the games will be six hours long. The argument over instant replays in baeball, however, is for another day.

Gallaraga was smiling and gracious, even as Bud Selig was spewing in Joyce’s face, understandably angry. Gallarage never lost his cool that I could tell, even when the news clips show him hard pressed and provoked by the journalists to vent. He was a model of good sportsmanship.

Jim Joyce himself watched the replay and quickly admitted, after the game, that he had blown the call. Wow, what a moment in America’s public life, someone rapidly and unqualifiedly taking responsibility for a public and momentous mistake. Joyce then made an apology to Gallaraga. Wow again. The final Wow was Gallaraga publicly and unreservedly accepting the apology.

So for those two, the incident was done. But how rare in our cultural life to see two grown men acting with grace, integrity and rationality. What a wonderful example. Gallaraga had the confidence to know that he was good no matter what, and that was enough for him; how wonderful. Joyce had the integrity to apologize for his mistake; how wonderful. Gallaraga had the grace to accept the apology and move on; how wonderful. Isn’t it too bad that this fabulous example of good sportsmanship will almost certainly be eclipsed at any moment by another anorexic party girl faux-celeb being led away in handcuffs. I don’t know about you, but I know which image I’d like my child to remember.

Caregiving and the Kitchen Floor

So I have been a little busy, haven’t posted in a few days. And there is so much in the world to write about these days its hard to know where to start! But lately my self absorbed self has been focused on the kitchen floor; literally and figuratively.

So the first thing you have to understand is that my father’s nose runs all the time. It has for years. He has been to every specialist known to medicine and nobody can find a reason for it, much less a cure. Our primary doctor here, who he doesn’t trust and I like, says sometimes it just happens to the elderly and nobody really knows why and there isn’t much you can do for it. My dad has tried every over the counter symptom relief despite some dire contraindications, with no result. So this runny nose is not the usual sniffle that the phrase “runny nose” brings to mind. His nose runs long clear mucous strings.

Now when my dad’s nose runs he is clearly aware of it. Sometimes he has a kleenex, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he has a napkin of preferably, for him, a paper towel, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he will attempt to get one of the above choices, sometimes he won’t. It is apparent that while this condition annoys him very much, he doesn’t much care about how this condition might affect those around him.

Let’s just put aside the visual aesthetic for a moment (not that easy to do mind you). This discharge is now to be found on our cabinets, the microwave handle, the refrigerator door, etc. This is not to mention the dishes that he rinses and puts back in the cupboard, claiming they are washed clean (no soap ever touches them).

Most distressing to me is the kitchen floor. Now I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen. Not only do i cook most days, I feed cats, I put away groceries, dishes, etc. Our kitchen floor is tile and I spend a lot of barefoot time in the kitchen. Not so much anymore. I watch this drip direct from his nose to my kitchen floor. I hand him a tissue/paper towel/napkin as fast as I can but often it is not a matter of how quick I am but a matter of how little he cares. Sometimes he will take the offered paper, other times he will just get mad as if somehow asking him not to share snot is a personal affront. I can no longer bear to walk barefoot in my kitchen and the cabinets have to be wiped down daily.

In the same vein, when he fixes food, he leaves it everywhere. The counter, the cabinets, the floor. First step, all containers are left open for someone else to close. All foods are left unrefrigerated for someone else to put away. All surfaces are left dirty for someone else to clean. Now it is his caregivers’ job to follow along behind him and clean up but again… not so much. So in addition to the snot, the floor is always covered with food.

The final insult is almost funny. He has taken to “helping” to clear the table, which is great; can’t complain. But the placemats, which are covered with food, he brushes, blows or just tips up and slides the food onto the floor. The other night, the event that precipitated the need to write this blog, was the tipping of all the bread crumbs and corn kernels onto the floor. Picture picking up the placemat and turning it on end so that all the debris simply lands on the floor. So now we have snot, cooking debris and the detritus of a meal, all on the kitchen floor. Too bad we can’t just use a blowtorch.