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CSUN ENGL 155 - Portrait of America

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Ton, 1 Peter Ton Professor Warwick English 155 March 1st, 2007 Portrait of America A portrait can define many different things depending on the context of its use. When we think of a typical portrait, we usually revert to its most commonly used definition as a picture or photograph that portrays someone, something, or even some place. However a portrait can portray far more than a staged mug-shot. A portrait can capture a powerful moment in time. It can be descriptive in such a way that tells a story without the use of a single word. It can even bring forth the deepest truths behind some of our most fictitious and falsified fabrications that we call reality; the fantasy world that we in our forged society continue to “work so hard” for in order to make a “decent” living in our taken-for-granted “American way of life.” “Life isn’t fair.” We hear it all the time while growing up during childhood. Let’s face it. Although life may seem “unfair” at times, the fact of the matter is that life could be a whole lot worse than it really is. There are far too many things in life that our fellow Americans take for granted. In today’s demanding society, people tend to worry more about their self image and what everyone else thinks of them rather than what’s really important such as being true to themselves. Whether it has to do with one’s religious beliefs, political views, ideologies, ethics, or even our down-right physical appearance, it all boils down to being overly conscious of one’s self image and social status. In our extravagant American way of life, we insensibly tend to pay more attention to less significant role models of the entertainment business like celebrities more so than the veryTon, 2 people who continuously maintain the delicate intricacies of our ever so successfully flourishing government such as politicians. Neal Gabler, a prestigious cultural historian, even felt that one’s greatest achievements matter less in our society than the amount of popularity that one receives through the media. “[B]eing well known in itself will turn anyone into a celebrity. A young White House intern with very few personal achievements can by virtue of a scandal become more universally known than, say, the president of Harvard University or 95 percent of the U.S. Senate” (565.) When it comes to pop-culture, we indefinitely take idolization to a whole new level. People in the United States are so hell-bent on keeping up with everything that is new and fashionable that it’s all one big façade now. We have America’s youth striving to be on television as they continuously take diet pills and go through surgical procedures to make their physical appearances look more like the celebrities that we see on billboards and in photo-shopped magazines. In our celebrity-idolizing “American way of life” it seems that being thin, fitting in, and looking “right” is more important than staying true to ourselves or knowing what’s really going on out in the world. Having been a member of the retail workforce for nearly four years, it has been my duty to interact with the many different types of people in our society. Through my experience I have observed that far too many people are greedy, selfish, and uncaring. Whether I was cursed at, belittled, or talked down to, I have had numerous encounters with such foul “citizens” of America that it makes me wonder how they could possibly go about living with themselves without thinking twice about their self-seeking actions and the possible consequences that follow. On a daily basis, if not me, then at least one of my co-workers are disrespected and treated in a rather uncivilized and unforgiving manner. People forget that, beneath myTon, 3 homogenous employee uniform, I am just as prone to making mistakes since I am no less human than they are. Although we have a decent share of noble philanthropists out there, unfortunately there just aren’t enough. It seems that people in general just don’t care for one another anymore. Take the rich and famous, for example. With the exception of a few of pop-culture’s favorite humanitarians like Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie, who in recent years was dubbed the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, we have so many rich and wealthy citizens driving around in these enormous gas-guzzling Sports Utility Vehicles, yet there are still far too many homeless children out there starving in the streets; and that’s just in our nation alone. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, "an estimated 1.35 million children are likely to experience homelessness over the course of a year. This number represents two percent of all children in the United States, and ten percent of all poor children in the United States." Fortunately there are such non-profit organizations out there like “Stand Up For Kids” that aim to help rescue the homeless youth of America today. Recent estimations show that “there are more than one and a half million children, teenagers and young adults trying to survive on U.S. streets today. If all of the homeless youth were in one city, it would be the seventh largest in the U.S. (Stand Up For Kids Online.)” Is that how the “American way of life” was meant to be lived? It’s truly tragic how so many people can so obliviously take so much for granted in this country without knowing some of the slightest issues that are currently happening in other parts of the world. People who always worry about frivolous things and continuously complain about how miserable their lives are in America should definitely take a glance at some of the problems that other countries are facing today. Let’s look the country of Uganda for a moment.Ton, 4 According to Invisible Children Inc., the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, has abducted and brainwashed tens of thousands of children for the last two decades in order to use them as soldiers in his militia for their on-going war. Children, who are also referred to as night-commuters, constantly live in fear and are forced to relocate themselves on a daily basis to find safe havens and sleep away from their homes in order to save their own lives: Roughly 95% of the people in Northern Ugandan districts [are] forced to evacuate their homes [and] are now living in camps, earning no monetary income, and living


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