A perusal of the headlines and the editorial pages suggests that many people view America as on its demise.
Depending on who you ask, the reasons for the obvious downturn of these United States are as varied as the people answering the question.
Global warming. Bi-partisan screaming on 24 hour news networks. The Internet. Technology and instant communication. Chemicals in our food and in our veins. Over-sexed, over-diagnosed, over-hyped and over-sensitive. Helicopter parents. The Me Generation. The Far Left. The Extreme Right.
For me, if you want proof that our culture is going to "H-E-double hockey sticks" in a hand-basket, my response is an easy one.
For those of you who have never heard of Gwyneth Paltrow, she's a 40ish, Academy Award winning actress and mother of two who I believe represents the worst of our superficial and self-centered society.
Ms. Paltrow is the daughter of Blythe Danner, an award winning actress in her own right, and the late Bruce Paltrow, a movie producer and director. Originally from California, Ms. Paltrow attended private schools in New York City and eventually dropped out of college to pursue a career in acting.
After dating famous actors like Brad Pitt and Ben Afleck, Gwyneth married rock artist Chris Martin of the band Coldplay and eventually moved to London to raise their two children Apple and Moses. She juggles her busy acting career with parenting, "writing" a number of cookbooks, writing a lifestyle blog for the internet and sticking her foot in her mouth in public on a semi-regular basis.
Last week's beauties included the announcement of her separation from her husband as a "conscious uncoupling" in her blog and then asserting in an interview that famous actresses like herself have it much harder than regular working mothers. She has to work really hard 14 hour days on her movie sets while the rest of us schleps can get into a groove in our normal 9-5 routine.
This seems like a good time to point out that Forbes Magazine identified Ms. Paltrow as among the top 100 entertainers in terms of annual income for 2013. It is estimated that the "conscious uncoupling" of the Paltrow-Martin household (known to the rest of the world as a divorce) will involve the distribution of assets estimated at $280 million.
So, to clarify. A woman who makes her living occasionally pretending to be someone else is paid more money than God and believes that her challenges are above that of the average working mom?
Only in America.
I'm guessing that Gwyneth never had the opportunity to wait tables or babysit for spending money before she dropped out of college.
I'm almost certain that she never felt the panic of having a sick kid or canceled school because of snow on the day that she has a can't-miss assignment at work and her husband left early because his day is overbooked.
Working mother indeed.
On the other hand, Gwyneth did recently generously donate the opportunity to work out with her for an hour to raise money for charity. Interested bidders could try to win the opportunity to spend an hour sweating right next to Apple's mother in her size 0 yoga tights.
A friend and I love to share giggles about the silliness of celebrities and Gwyneth in particular. I was searching for the precise Gwynnie quote on working moms to forward to my friend when I stumbled upon a website that lists the "Top 45 stupid quotes of Gwyneth Paltrow."
There are some classics.
"I am who I am. I can't pretend to be someone who makes $25,000 a year."
"I would rather die than let my kids eat Cup O Soup."
"I would rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin."
The woman who was voted People Magazine's Most Beautiful Woman in the same year as being voted the Internet's Most Hated Celebrity seems to be a bit out of touch. Case in point. Her postings on GOOP, her lifestyle website, include the best places to get a bikini wax, reviews of the best dietary cleansing drinks and "must haves" for spring break attire including white shorts for $350.
That's right. $350 for a pair of cotton shorts (and another $350 for matching canvas shoes) and yet she asserts that she works much, much harder than the average working mother.
I couldn't make this stuff up.
Why do I care? The point is that I don't. Silly, vapid Gwyneth is merely a symptom of how screwy our culture is today. We pay $12 to see her movies and scoop up the magazines with her picture on the cover. The paparazzi records every minute of her personal life and the press sticks a microphone in her pretty face at award shows and in interviews.
What do you think? What products do you like? What designers do you wear? Who did you vote for? Tell us about your kids and your parenting and your marriage and your views on the world. Pretty soon, celebrities like Ms. Paltrow begin to believe that they are somehow different or better or above the rest of us.
Call me crazy but the person who spends eight hours a day helping to shape and mold my kid in a public school classroom or the nurse who works the oncology unit or the social worker who helps the elderly widow stay in her home is a lot more interesting to me than a Hollywood celebrity – and a lot more deserving of our time and our treasure. Unfortunately, people who really make a difference are deemed not-that-interesting in our culture.
Too much money. Too much fame. An exaggerated sense of self and self-importance. The antics of Gwyneth Paltrow and the like provide us with entertainment and fodder for jokes around the water cooler. We love to hate them and yet somehow can't look away.
They represent the worst that is our culture.
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