The OF Blog: America: Succinctly summarized in two photos?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

America: Succinctly summarized in two photos?

In a single one-mile stretch of I-70 just outside of St. Louis, Missouri, you can see these two contrasting images of American excess as you drive west into the city.  What do you think this says about the US?

More images from my impromptu trip this past Thursday-Saturday to Kansas City will appear later this weekend.


S.M.D. said...

I-75 in Florida is exactly the same. From Orlando all the way to Atlanta, it's back and forth sex/porn shops, strip clubs, anti-abortion ads, and religious messages. There are also some spas here or there...

It should be noted that this is not true of California. I-5 is surprisingly clean, despite being in a crazy left-wing socialist commie hellhole. :P

Larry said...

The thirty miles or so between Tifton and Cordele, GA are among the worst in that festering cesspool. "Turf Grass Capital of the World" vs. "Award-winning Hotels!" But I think my favorite was near Gainesville, with the Adult store that advertized its food and its couples-friendly atmosphere.

S.M.D. said...

I live in Gainesville :). And I know exactly what you mean. Hilarious world!

Eric M. Edwards said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric M. Edwards said...

America's blend of religious extremism and muscular capitalism sets up a feedback loop between perceived morality and amorality, all without requiring that either be excised from the body civic.

Beginning as a colony settled by both Protestants and Catholics, though the latter have had less historical clout on the establishment of national narrative, followed by a merchants' revolution to overthrow the British Crown but more importantly, the colonial system which was keeping the American mercantile elite from reaping the full benefit of their exploitation of their "new world," America has been a strange mixture of Calvinism and commerce from the start.

Both systems open up sin as a commodity and a pejorative element to weed out of their flock, setting them in tension but dependent on each other in many ways.

The abhorrence of sin and the stoking of guilt, helps fuel religious conversion and Sunday sermons. The money raised keeps several tiers of churches, churchmen, and organizations afloat, and centered in their communities by the anchor of their resources.

Up until very recently, it has been difficult to make this system face off with a big capitalism that puts around its shoulders the flag and American Way of Life - as often as the mantle of Christianity itself. That it has been blended together so effortlessly for the most part, tells us how twined together these two are despite what one might expect.

But the Christian church has never been a serious foe of the rich since it gained imperial recognition under Constantine. Individuals have tried to turn it against the sins of the flesh and the pocketbook, and the flames lit by Martin Luther came close to burning away some of its ties to Old Mammon, but Protestants once they were established also needed money and rich patrons, so the dance goes on with much the same partners.

As an atheist I find it all more than a bit seedy, both the sin and the faith and the plump hands of commercialism bringing them together at the altar.

But even I have to admit it seems an inescapable aspect of American society, rooted in its history, tied to its present, and unlikely to disappear in the future. It's a strange place.

And I say that, keeping in mind that I often get out my ruby slippers and look at them with a face that is filled with both longing and deepest suspicion. I am as any good American, of two minds about it.

RobB said...

In 2010, my wife and I took a trip to the Midwest to see the St. Louis Cardinals and the KC Royals. We flew into St. Louis and drove from there to KC and experienced much of the same thing.

A sex-club/strip joint billboard was immediately followed by a religious/church based billboards.

srs said...

Is 23 minutes in hell like 7 minutes in heaven?

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