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The Daily Tar Heel

American culture teaches a lesson of polarization, excess

I own a 64-ounce cup. 64 ounces. 1.893 liters. One half gallon. And it scares me.

I saw it standing on the gas station counter next to the soft drink machine while I was paying for gas. It struck me as a little unnecessary and utterly American.

"What's the point of a cup?" I thought. "To hold a portion of liquid that you intend to drink in one sitting. Otherwise, you would buy a bottle. Who is drinking 64 ounces of soda in one sitting? Is this really necessary?"

I wanted to try it for myself, so I bought it. The cup was so large, I could barely grip it with one hand. When I lifted it to drink, the top bent into an oval and you could actually see the blue plastic turning white and straining to keep from splitting. We play ultimate Frisbee with the top.

To answer my rhetorical question: No, a 64-ounce cup is not necessary at all, but it is a small, perfect representation of a larger phenomenon that is occurring in almost every aspect of American life: polarization.

Everything from wealth disparities to cars is becoming increasingly stratified. The polar ends are pulling apart, leaving little in the middle. There is no happy median any more, because there is no medium. There are three blades on a razor, and they vibrate.

Forbes Magazine recently reported that there are currently 313 billionaires living in the United States, the most ever recorded. This summer, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the percentage of people living in poverty had risen from 12.1 in 2002 to 12.5 in 2003.

Reebok signed a 3-year-old child to a commercial contract in exchange for a college trust fund that might threaten his eligibility with the NCAA (I can't believe I just wrote that).

Other young, albeit older, children are more sedentary than vegetation, forsaking real life for video games and The Real World.

Fast food restaurants provide the most easily identifiable manifestations of polarization. Until "Super Size Me" debuted, McDonald's had a super-size option, and Wendy's still has a biggie-size alternative.

Poppa John's doesn't even offer a medium pizza - the only make a small, large or extra-large. They do, however, offer a delicious dipping sauce and a jalape

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