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Beneath the Smooth Skin of America Essay

America is a wide range of cultural, environmental, and geographical landmarks, but yet they are skimmed over every day. “Beneath the Smooth Skin of America” is an essay written by Scott Russell Sanders about his understanding of regions. According to Sanders, we have a problem in which we have turned into one big region, a global village, and that we don’t know about our homelands. Sanders explains, although we may come from one certain place they are all looked at equally. As the author starts to grow older he begins to notice the differences in land from region to region. Sanders says that “With every journey I took, the world seemed larger and more various” (155).

In different places the land may have looked the same but a lot of other things were different such as accents and the attires of people. Sanders explains, although America is still a textured land it is being smoothed over by technology and our feverish mobility. He states that the more we chase after making a name for ourselves it is less likely that we know everything about the land we are on in that moment. We have come to realize that although we are in a different place, we still familiarize it with the same things at home.

In order to solve this problem Sanders suggests “Instead of patching up old regional costumes, therefore, we ought to clothe ourselves with a new sense of place” (157-58). He also states that is has been said in order to do this we must let go of our “local attachments, forego geography and move into the global village constructed by the media and the multinational corporations” (158). The “Global Village” Sanders refers to is a metaphor of having everything on your fingertips for easy access.

This metaphor is false by giving of the idea of neighbors when in reality they are on the other side of the nation. Village refers to being bound by relationships and community in a small environment. The Global Village takes on this idea by communicating with others to express those relationships and cultures, although you are not directly communicating with one another. According to Sanders the Global Village allows people to “ only passerby, without power or responsibility, free to come and go, tune in or out” (158). Although almost everyone takes part in this village we will eventually become numb to the familiarity of everything.

This Global Village we live in has made life easier by allowing the people to access information without actually understanding its true meaning. Without learning the background of different places or objects we loose focus of what we are trying to do. Accessing information easily does not allow the person to get the full understanding and knowledge of the nature of this information. We skim over the key information and go straight to what we think we need to know. People skim over these ideas because we were never taught the importance of them. Sanders’ solution to the problems is, to look for a new sense of place we must first have knowledge of the land we are currently on.

In reality we think we know everything about our hometowns but in fact we barely know anything. We do not understand the soils that lie beneath the ground we walk on, the sliding of earths panels, the differences in weather, and the patterns of the sun and moon. According to Sanders, “The answers to such questions help reveal where we actually live” (158). Sanders explains what he means by the saying the smooth surface of America, “Beneath the smooth human surface, behind the maps, beyond all our blasting and bulldozing, the land itself remains extraordinarily diverse” (158). To say that multiple states are one in the same is a completely ignorant statement.

Every region has its own familiar landscape that is one of a kind. Sanders implies “If we pay attention, we begin to notice patterns in the local landscape. Perceiving those patterns, acquiring names and theories and stories for them, we cease to be tourists and become inhabitants”. Although at a young age we spend time learning our homelands we do not get the full experience. Sanders’ solution to this problem is to, at a young age, let children explore the outdoors. Not even children but every age to get outside and take in the beauty of the nature. Sanders explains that you do not need to be specialized in these areas to take part as an adult to comprehend the meanings of the nature.

Throughout the course of our lives we are taught information about our homelands, but yet we never fully comprehend how the land was transformed over time. Sanders demonstrates, “in remaining in one’s region, it is safer to begin by studying the land than by studying the yellow pages” (159). What

Sanders means in this statement is that in order to comprehend the nature of the land we must first go out and actually take a look and survey our surroundings rather than read what someone said about the nature of land. Sanders also states on this topic that in order to live responsibly on earth, “ we will have to recognize that our true address is not the one listed in the phone book, but the one defined by the movement of water, the lay of the land, the dirt and air, the animals and plants” (160). We must understand that our true identity is not something that is laid out in front of us like a map but rather it is our surroundings.


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