This morning I was looking around Facebook and I came across what was meant to be a humorous picture that spawned a string of comments in response that were certainly not humorous in nature. In fact they were a fairly serious discussion. What it struck me as was a specific example of what is wrong with America.
You can probably guess what conversation the picture (below) started.
The comments conversation that followed was predictably about women gaining weight during pregnancy and it being okay to do so. That was followed by our culture being obsessed with women's weight and how it's wrong to expect women to all be model skinny.
The latter point is fair enough - everyone is different, but it misses the bigger picture, pardon the pun. Everyone knows there's a problem with obesity in America. Women, men and children all are as specific demographics, overweight and skewed towards obesity. The Center For Disease Control has some disturbing facts about the problem. Obesity is a problem.
The problem is those, who for selfish purposes defend the problem as acceptable. Those who argue that people should be comfortable with their own weight or that noticing weight gain in people is unacceptable are doing so without disclosing their true reasons for making those arguments. Let's face it, it's easier to eat ice cream than do push-ups. Now I'm not arguing that overcoming obesity is a simple thing and equally easy for everyone. In fact it's probably tough. Healthy living requires hard work and sacrifice.
I'm also not arguing that women should be anorexic or weight-obsessed. That's unhealthy too. But there is a very long way between being obese and being too skinny. There's plenty of points along the way where it is acceptable to stop.
The real issue is that this is a symptom of a larger problem in society and it isn't just about food. Alcoholism is a disease. Addictions are beyond the control of those who they afflict. What it boils down to is acceptance of an unacceptable problem. Learning to live with yourself is not trying to improve yourself. Accepting mediocrity is now the norm. Self-improvement isn't a priority.
That's the underlying problem with America right now. People have just voted for a second term for a president who doesn't believe in American exceptionalism and wants to manage a shift to a China-centric century. Too many people have accepted mediocrity for the country because increasingly, they are accepting mediocrity in so many aspects of their everyday lives with everything from their weight, to their unemployment or under-employment. If people don't care enough about themselves to try to be the best version of themselves possible, you can't expect them to feel that way about their country. Good enough has become good enough it seems.
That bodes poorly for the United States. Forget exceptionalism - if being your best doesn't matter, then you aren't going to be a winner, let alone exceptional. It boils down value systems. It boils down to character mattering. That may come as a surprise to those fiscal conservatives who don't subscribe to the "character matters" school of thought. But who we are defines what we do (or don't do), and what we do defines whether or not we succeed.
One final thought - there were some interesting points in the comment thread with the picture about the obsession with celebrity and that whatever Jessica Simpson eats or doesn't eat is not important. That's another problem and an entirely fair point. Societal degradation of principles including celebrity worship, matters and it contributes directly to the notion that so many people don't care enough to be their best.