I got Montezuma’s Revenge about ten years ago on my second visit to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. And let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. It got so bad that I was vomiting bile and any water I had managed to drink. I remember lying on the sofa in the living room overlooking the Pacific Ocean listening to the sounds of friends and strangers just beyond the window and thinking, “Why me?”

The next day, I was on the beach under a palapa drinking frozen margaritas, playing Hearts and listening to Spanish guitar. I never did find out what made me sick. And I didn’t care. I was just relieved that I didn’t have to check into some godforsaken Mexican hospital with cockroaches, dirty corners and the smell of certain death permeating the hallways.

Jalapenos are being blamed on the latest salmonella outbreak. I wonder if some of the infected people thought it was just a bad case of Montezuma’s Revenge. “Damn Mexicans and their jalapenos!”

And that’s pretty much what the FDA is doing too. Blaming the Mexicans. The Mexican government makes it easy to do. Still, when is the FDA going to start preventing outbreaks instead of managing them?

Someone once told me that living abroad for an extended period of time helps you gain a better perspective on your own country. You begin to consider your country more objectively, see it through the eyes of foreigners. Now, I’ve always been a cynic not a pessimist. People screw things up but that doesn’t mean only bad things will happen. Now, I’m begging to wonder if I was wrong.

There is a cancer eating away at the soul of America. Salmonella is just a symptom. We constantly and consistently blame each other and foreign others for our problems. We shift blame and lay blame, but we never take blame. It’s never our problem, it’s someone else’s problem. And many of us arrogantly believe that the U.S. will always be the shining beacon of hope that is destined to remain a benevolent superpower for all the world to model itself after. And that’s just sad. We need to reread our world history books and take a long look in the mirror before it’s too late.

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