Monday, August 27, 2012

Not my scene

(I thought about titling this post "The Seventh Circle of Hell," but when I revisited Dante's descriptions of the various circles, then that title seemed a bit harsh... so I toned it back a bit.)

Last weekend, we went to Kennywood. Most of you know that Kennywood is a Pittsburgh amusement park with a long, storied history. It's a great place, clean and well-kept, smartly laid out, with old favorites as well as re-designed new interpretations of now-defunct rides. I haven't been there very often, having grown up in a small town farther south of the 'Burgh. My first trip to Kennywood was a school field trip in 8th grade, and since then, I've been there perhaps five times. A couple of those times have been with my young son.

This most recent visit was an evening foray, and the place was packed beyond comfortable levels. Line waits lasted a minimum of 30 minutes, with some of the stands for edible favorites boasting hour-long waits. The food-service employees appeared to be working in slow motion, as did a few of the ride operators; I'm sure they were simply bushed. It was warm but not terribly hot, thank goodness. And everywhere I looked, I saw spoiled people—and incomplete families.

There were many spoiled children, whining or throwing tired fits, bolting away from parents, arguing incessantly on every point. Some of the spoiled people were grown-ups, waddling along and panting as they simultaneously stuffed their faces. A handful of folks were pretty foul-mouthed; some of the younger ones were hanging all over each other. They were, by and large, slobs, over-exposed and under-dressed—a pretty sorry-looking bunch overall. I was right in there with them, equally unimpressive, but I'm happy to report that I managed to refrain from spouting the F word repeatedly, baring my midriff, or eating more than I could lift at one time.

Many of the children came in packs—apparently big families are back "in" these days—but an alarming number of the little ones belonged to disheveled and often pregnant women with nary a wedding ring in sight. I'm hoping that the impending birth of yet another child might have caused swollen extremities that forced the temporary abandonment of tight-fitting jewelry, but I have my doubts in many cases. That's because I also overheard a couple of disturbing conversations about the various daddies of the children (one mom, indicating various heads in her pack, grumbled about one dad not paying, another not calling her back... and not a one of the children could have been over 6.

I hope I don't sound like a disapproving snob. I don't think I am, truly. I am just bothered more and more by the blasé way that our culture has ditched decency, discipline, self-restraint, and committed relationships between men and women, especially marriage. In truth, what I witnessed over and over at Kennywood was nothing new, really, and it wasn't limited to a certain type of people group or ethnicity. It's prevalent everywhere. And it becomes increasingly undeniable to me when I'm in a big crowd of people.

The sheer American-ness of Americans is overwhelming and often embarrassing to me. We seem to be leaving behind a legacy of poor health, overindulgence, and avoidance of responsibility and effort. I know I'm over-stating all this, and I also know that the abandonment of marriage is far from an American phenomenon, but I can't take any comfort from either of those facts right now.

Even if I loved big crowds of people, I think I would have been disturbed by this last Kennywood visit. I fear for America's future. Things are going terribly wrong in the country that I love. We've lost our way, our means, and our compass. And a second order of Potato Patch fries won't save us in the end.


Mel said...

I confess I am having second thoughts about posting this one. I considered taking it down, but that seemed even more pansy than writing it in the first place. I guess I had hopes, at the beginning, that this blog would be a noble thing... and instead it is a reflection of my thoughts and feelings, which are sometimes ugly and base. I'm supposed to love my fellow men and women, I know... yet many days I find myself pondering how God can love any of us. I guess it's better to be honest than it is to be a hypocrite. The best thing, I suppose, is for me to simply keep my mouth shut when thoughts such as what are expressed in this last post come to the forefront. I hope that any readers will forgive my negativity and judgmental tone. We all fall short.

Athelas63 said...

NO. Do not take this down. It is ALL true. It is a noble thing to point out to someone they are in danger, and these people are. Obesity is dangerous, promiscuity is dangerous, irresponsibility is dangerous. When I travel I see the same thing, and it's extra embarrassing when you're in a foreign country and the big, fat, loud, snotty person is yelling in an American accent. The rest of the world is laughing at us - killing ourselves by excess. People don't want to hear it, but it is true. And truth is noble. Leave this post up.

Cari Skuse said...

I totally agree with everything you said. It is such a sad comment on society today.
This goes along with a book I have been reading ("The Man Whisperer" by Rick Johnson) and how society has come to being like this because in many cases men have become feminized. That it is no longer a good thing to be a manly man, to stand up for what you believe is right. That not enough boys have strong male figures in their lives to model from. And women's role in this, not expecting more from men, like to be around when they are fathers or not treating them with respect. I haven't gotten through this book the whole way (and I'm reading another of his books -- "That's My Teenage Son") but I agree with a lot of it.
I'm sure that I am the unpopular mom at football practice because I yell at kids (not my own) when I see them doing something wrong. It seems that people just drop their kids off there and let them run wild (siblings of either players or cheerleaders) with no supervision. It seems they are too busy with their phones, etc. to even pay attention. Ugh.

Mel said...

Sounds like an interesting author, Cari. There is truth in what you're saying (and what that author is saying). I am the mean mom pretty much everywhere I go, and likely perceived as the laziest to boot (seeing as I don't work outside the home) yet most people we know have commented on my son's good manners and pleasant demeanor. So. I am embracing old fashioned more and more.

(The final straw for me recently was a hugely obese young woman who proudly sported a tight T-shirt with the words "Eat Your Heart Out" on it. Ugh. How to comment on what's wrong with that image?!)

chris h. said...

It's hard to imagine a society that can survive when self-control and self-respect go out the window (despite all the "esteem-building" kids get thee days), and without a sense of morality and the idea of holding oneself to a high standard. It's sad and embarrassing to be around. Does that make me a snob? I don't know -- I don't care what people have; I care how they behave. I don't care if they're beautiful; I care if they're clean and covered. But, yes, Mel, I fear my attitude doesn't jibe with the command to love your neighbor as yourself (especially with the neighbors we have now in the wreck next door). I struggle between acknowledging that some people don't know any better, haven't been taught properly, are "disadvantaged," and deserve my compassion and just wanting to say, "Would you look at yourself? Get a clue, straighten up, and act like a decent human being."