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Super Patriotism

Ever since 9-11 I’ve struggled with the insignificance of my singular passion, restaurants, and doubted whether listeners would ever care again or respond to my commentaries about food. As essential as eating is, it seemed we had become more thoughtful, less consumerist and more political, in all the good ways. This would leave scant attention for something as trifling as where the good eats are, and leave me begging for an audience that once hung on my every word. But after being assaulted by the blitzkrieg of blind patriotism at last Sunday’s Super Bowl, and realizing that Britney Spear’s Pepsi commercials are more awaited than the fate of that poor reporter in Afghanistan, I realized that my trivial pursuits are hardly in danger of becoming passé.

I’m exaggerating of course, but didn’t we hear constantly about how serious and caring Americans had become in the wake of the World Trade Center bombings and the ensuing recession. Materialism was out and meaningfulness was in…. or so I thought until the big game.

It was sometime between Maria over singing the national anthem and U2 trivializing a mass homicide while its oblivious fans cheered wildly, that I realized, no matter what the tragedy, the American soul is bought and paid for by our corporate, feel-good culture. Nothing, and I mean nothing, matters as long as we keep enjoying our worthless diversions, and keep believing that MacDonald’s is somehow responsible—nutritionally and financially—for our Olympic athletes.

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The shamelessness and puffery of the Super Bowl left me a little less proud to be an American and a lot less conflicted over the simple pleasures I take in life. It was not freedom or love of country that was being sold last Sunday, it was cheap beer and soda and cars and bad music and fast food….all things we would be better off without. We are a country that cannot separate nationalism from commercialism, and while this display of hucksterism (at the expense of three thousand innocent victims), embarrassed me for my country, it also renewed my faith in the enrichment of my life—and I hope yours-- that is only found at table, with good food and fellowship.

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Thursday, February 7, 2002
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