COLUMN: Look beyond Britney Spears

Jessica Rothschuh

Between the television’s pacifying flicker and the insulating numbness of prescription pills, bombarded by pop culture product, glitzy shopping villages and thousands of advertisements each day, it is easy to lose sight of reality.

Nearly four years of collegiate study have revealed with frightening clarity the obstacles Americans must overcome to develop a connection to the rest of the world and a sense of social responsibility and justice.

A veil of ignorance fits America well. A country constituting only 5 percent of the world’s population but consuming 25 percent of its energy, a country turning its face from genocide in Darfur in favor of Britney Spears’ new beau and baby, a country run by men who do not represent the people they govern – without distractions, this guilt might force us to change the way we live.

Material comfort, political ignorance and social apathy ensure most Americans will remain satisfied knowing and caring little about the rest of the world. The reward of living in the richest country on earth is excess at the expense of the rest.

We concern ourselves with “Survivor” while half the world’s people live on less than $2 a day. President Bush tells us our enemies hate our freedom. But is it our prosperity they hate, or our extravagance and disregard for the people it hurts?

For a long time, I blamed my ignorance, with some justice, on the public education I received, the billions in advertising dollars spent to keep me a captive audience and a slave to appearances and a national myth of entitlement assuring me I deserve more than my share.

Over 200 years of American isolationism and institutionalized disregard for the environment are overwhelming obstacles to change. But our generation knows this. We can no longer justify our greed with Manifest Destiny or ignorance. The damaging effects of U.S. consumerism on the world and its people are abundant and undeniable. It is our responsibility to create a national policy emphasizing the interconnectedness of humankind and be mindful of the impact of our actions.

It is not unpatriotic or liberal or Communistic to care about the earth and all its people, to see an interconnected human family instead of flags and borders. Americans are just humans who are fortunate enough to have been born in these coordinates. They have a responsibility to live harmoniously with the rest of the world. We cannot live the “American Way” much longer.

Jessica Rothschuh is a graduating magazine journalism major. Contact her at [email protected].