One shoe off

September 14, 2007

State of the Nation

Filed under: media,politics,State of the nation — Liz @ 9:36 am

1. We’re dumb and fat. I’m a fan of Mike Gravel, I see his point, I’m inclined to agree with him. North Americans ARE fat. That’s the first thing many foreign visitors notice when they arrive. And I’m inclined to agree that people are pretty dumb, as well (else why would we continue to eat the crap that’s killing us, for example). There is a very strong anti-intellectual current running through the U.S. psyche. Not to mention that we’ve become accustomed to accepting information in sound bites without taking the time to question it. This is not entirely our fault … there are very smart, very wealthy people out there trying their best to tell us what to think, buy and yes, eat.

But the populist in me wants to resist writing off the U.S. as hopelessly dumb. In one of his essays, Noam Chomsky points out that, if you listen to sports talk radio shows, the people who call in by and large show a very sophisticated understanding of strategy, statistics and the minutae of their favorite sport. They question and criticize the “authorities” on the sport — i.e. coaches, referees, analysts … with no qualms whatsoever. People offer confident, sophisticated analysis of athletics. The trick is helping them see that they can also offer confident, sophisticated analysis of arenas with much greater stakes.

2. Our loneliness goes as deep as our genes. Actually, that’s not what the article SAYS, but the headlines that many outlets chose for the story makes it sound as though scientists have found a “lonely gene” (akin to the “breast cancer gene” or a “gay gene”). Actually, it’s even more poignant. Loneliness has profound biological effects, even going so far as to effect us on a genetic level. Lonely people die sooner, and it may not be just because they lack resources.

Like most news reports of medical/scientific studies, this one leaves much to be desired where details are concerned. (And what the Washington Post article doesn’t tell you is that the study only looked at 14 people.)

Still, the idea that loneliness is “killing us softly” not just in a vague way but at a very specific genetic level is compelling. It’s always nice to get biological arguments for your basic theological tenets, in any case. One of mine is that human being, being in the image of God, require community.

Not that I’m one to mix science and religion … as we all know, that leads to things like this:

3. I have a new favorite online hangout since I came the Oklahoma: the Web site of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City. Bob Waldrop, the author, fascinates  me to no end. Read his “Woe to the rich (immigration version)” (* I LOVE that there is room for more than one version of his “woe to the rich” I also love his argument that laws that hurt the poor and the oppressed are pro-abortion. I’m not turning in my pro-choice credentials any time soon, but I find it a brilliant leap of logic. And an accurate one, as well. It’s a wonder it hasn’t occurred to anyone else yet … wait a minute, I guess it’s not a wonder).  Also, a very good example of public theology from a Catholic Worker perspective (remember, they’ve been at it A LOT longer than many of us).

Click around Bob’s site some more. He’s doing great things with local food, has some great pieces about various social issues and a really good bread recipe.


  1. Liz, I love your blog. I especially got a kick out of your sports “analysis” and the Youtube video. It makes me wonder if those people had ever heard of Miller-Urey experiment that, while not producing life, did produce the early precursors to life–i.e. amino acids and other organic compounds. It is so dangerous to have a “God of the Shadows,” yet people continue to insist on it.


    Comment by Adam — September 15, 2007 @ 8:03 am | Reply

  2. “there may be a way to help prevent the deadly effects of loneliness”

    Saddest sentence with a the vaguest glimmer of sensationalized hope ever!

    Comment by Aharona — September 15, 2007 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

  3. i think it’s impossible to judge the state of america when one is in it. also, i think that america is a snake to big to fit in just one box. it’s such a huge huge country geographically, and that makes the populous even more diverse. i think i have a hard time believing americans are getting fatter and dumber because my friends are all such inteligent, well-read or well-versed people, and they all tend to be aware of food, their particular weights or obsessions notwithstanding. but i also tend to think the country is much more skewed libaraly and pro-gay as well, just because i have so few conservative homophobic people in my circle.

    Comment by caitlin leah — September 16, 2007 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  4. Yes Americans are fat. I am fat.

    I have trouble with people using science to support the choices they make in life. For instance. I am fat and my parents are overweight. There is probably a gene that predisposes me to being overweight. But it is still my choice that I live this way because I can do something about it.

    I believe we are hard wired to live in community but a gene, I don’t know. Either way whatever your genes we are all responsible for our decisions and choices.

    AS for God and science. I don’t think they oppose each other. I simply believe that God is not bound by science, or time. This is hard for humans to comprehend.

    Comment by doublej — September 17, 2007 @ 12:09 pm | Reply

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