Editorial: Eating our first world problems

An Israeli airstrike killed the most senior official of the Palestinian political party, Hamas, last Wednesday. But before most Americans could wrap their minds around the event that would leave many dead and wounded, they were bidding adieu to the most iconic of pre-baked goods: The Twinkie.

Users of social media bemoaned the fall of Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, while others politicized it, calling Hostess’s liquidation a classic consequence of push-and-pull union affairs.

The overstated displays of emotion after Hostess declared bankruptcy on Friday reminds us how comfortably lodged young Americans are in “first world problems.”

Perhaps it is because the youth of our generation has become too overwhelmed by the trivialities that occupy its day-to-day lives. Questions like, “How did I do on that exam?” or, “When will my iPhone 5 finally arrive on my doorstep?” stockpile until they become the shadow image of a generation that’s too comfortable to care, too pampered to pay attention.

Even those who fail exams have the privilege of a college education; those whose iPhone packages are delayed by unforeseen postal circumstances have the luxury of communicating with loved ones, near and far. Simply by being American citizens, we’ve become members of a club that simply has it better than a lot of other people around the world.

And it’s true — there’s only so much bad news people can take. Making a big deal out of Twinkies, Ho Hos and Ding Dongs adds a layer of relief to the block of tragic news we receive on a daily basis. When confronted with the death toll on the Gaza strip, who wants to comment on a political post on Facebook? Who wants to tweet about the innocent children who have died? Especially during the holiday season, Americans just want to feel happy and cozy — and safe. But as heartbreaking as war tragedies are, it’s important that we notice them and avoid the temptation to be too distracted from the news that matter.

So-called sufferers of “first world problems” resort to this generational mantra, shielding themselves from their global responsibilities and absconding any debt they owe their communities. Perhaps it’s a good thing that our biggest problem is how our beloved snacks will no longer occupy Walmart’s “sale” shelves. But what are we supposed to glean from a country that has privileged a product with 37 ingredients over the lines of hungry people at food shelters? The combined effort of media consumers invested in saving an American treat has outweighed efforts to help the impoverished, to feed the poor.

It’s the same country that reveres Black Friday in the same breath it reveres Thanksgiving — the America that stampedes retail stores looking for more things, only a day after giving thanks for all it is fortunate to have.

The Los Angeles Times reported that because of public outcry, the Twinkie may “survive.”

Let’s hope those on the Gaza strip are as lucky.

 

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