By: Chris Warren.
Regular readers know that Twenty First Summer is a libertarian, heavily pro-American platform. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the USA has any problems, but I typically keep my criticisms about the United States out of this blog. This time I just can’t let it slide. I’ve concluded that the food buffet of all places is a microcosm of what is wrong in the United States, and it embarrasses me not only as an American, but also as someone who believes in basic human decency.
As we entered the buffet, the wealth of food stretched before us gave us that “oh, wow!” breathless moment. This was not like the pre made frozen-then-reheated vats of soulless generic grub found on steam tables at inexpensive chain establishments and truck stops. This was an upscale experience of fresh seafood, cooked to order steaks, fresh soups, and beautifully made desserts from an in-house pastry chef. We were going high class that night.
The problem with this otherwise elegant buffet became immediately apparent. It wasn’t the food or the service. It was the other customers. We sat and politely ate our modest portions like civilized human beings while most, not all, but most, of the other buffet patrons proceeded to act like gluttonous slobs.
Buffet diners, many with a plate in each hand, lined up at the seafood station and piled on enough fish to nourish a pregnant sea lion for a week. Others were sitting at tables with three or four plates of mounded food in front of them. Another table had two large stacks of dirty dishes waiting to be carried away. The unfortunate buffet wait staff literally could not clear the table as fast as those two overstuffed pigs shoveled food in their mouths. By the way, I did not see anyone besides us leave a tip.
So what does a food buffet have to do with patriotism and being critical of Americans? Quite a bit. For beginners, the friend I was with is not originally from the United States. Even though he is a now a US citizen and fully acclimated into American culture, I was still embarrassed for him to see the spectacle. The frenzy of overindulgence and hedonism was unsettling. This is not the United States I want others to see.
The buffet customers, who are my fellow Americans, completely disgusted me. I’m confident that these are the same types who travel to other countries, act like they do here, and then wonder why Americans are resented. The pathos of the buffet slobs carries over to the attitudes of society in general:
- People will take advantage of the system and grab up everything they can, even if it’s more than they need, or something they don’t need at all. They believe one of the goals of going to a buffet is to eat (or waste) more food than you paid for. They apply this ethic to every facet of their lives
- There is no concern for those perceived as being of a lower social standing (in this case, wait staff). Servants’ needs and feelings are not relevant to those they serve.
- Related to the last point, people will think that because they are paying for something (and even if they are not), they have the right to act superior and create gratuitous burdens on others. They believe their status as a client or customer absolves them of nearly any sociopathic behavior.
- The attitude of entitlement is not more prevalent in any particular demographic. It occurs across all income, gender, and racial/ethnic groups.
How the citizens of a nation treat each other and humble themselves before the bounty they have been blessed with says something about that nation’s collective values, and the way I see it, the food buffet is a merely a symptom of the disrespect and lack of gratitude that exists everywhere. For a guy who thinks the United States is the greatest place that has ever been or will be, it’s a difficult admission for me to make. But blind devotion is a false emotion; this one went far beyond mere table manners and must be called out for what it is. We The People can’t become better as a country if we think we are already superior as individuals.