Saying Grace

I’m not here to wax political, only to share some words I read this morning on this Presidents’ Day. Yep, on this government-appointed three-day weekend of money-saving retail sales galore!

Last week at the library, I picked up a copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s Small Wonder, a collection of essays that are long enough to leave me fulfilled but short enough for me to not get burned out or trapped into finishing too long of a tale.  I opened the book to a new page, having completed the first essay last night before bed, and began reading Saying Grace.

In this essay, Barbara Kingsolver shares her thoughts on the events preceding and following 9/11 and the mentality of the American consumer during the crisis. Consumerism, depending on who you ask, is one of the primary driving forces behind the terrorist attacks over 10 years ago because we, as a nation, consistently forge our way into other countries and terrorize the land those citizens so desperately rely on in order to make the things we want, not need.  We, as a nation, are consumers of those products and the majority of us act as if it is our right to have constant access to those goods. And it is, legally, but maybe not so ethically.  And that’s her point.

In the autumn of 2001 we faced the crisis of taking a very hard knock from the outside, and in its aftermath, as our nation grieved, every time I saw that wastefulness rear its head I felt even more ashamed. Some retailers rushed to convince us in ads printed across waving flags that it was our duty even in wartime, especially in wartime, to get out and buy those cars and shoes. We were asked not to think very much about the other side of the world, where, night after night, we were waging a costly war in a land whose people could not dream of owning cars or in some cases even shoes.

~ Barbara Kingsolver, Saying Grace

Interpret the words however you wish.  There are a few things Kingsolver stresses in Saying Grace that I don’t particularly agree with.  But considering the day and the thousands of sales going on all across the country in the name of American consumerism (and in doing our part for the economy in this time of war), I figured it was an appropriate enough moment to share this with you.

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About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
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4 Responses to Saying Grace

  1. David Patterson says:

    Dena… as someone who did not grow up in this country, I can assure you that – even in countries considered allies – there is often a disdain of American greed and the willingness with which this nation flexes its muscles. I say this not to invoke political debate, but merely as an observation. History has shown that there have always been powerful entities seeking to impose their beliefs and ideals on others less able to defend themselves, whether that has been in the name of religion, colonialism, or today… consumerism. Sounds like a pretty interesting read… thanks for sharing.

  2. Dena says:

    Thank YOU for sharing. I forgot about your upbringing in another country and it’s interesting to hear another person’s perspective on this issue. I am really not politically experienced so I try to publicly avoid such debates so I can certainly appreciate your wanting to share your observation. I also didn’t want this post to become that but it is worth taking the time to look inward and personally come to terms with how one might feel about this topic. Thanks again 🙂

    • David Patterson says:

      Nothing is ever black and white, so you should take my last comment with a pinch of salt. I shake my head though and the cynic in me frowns when my kid “needs” sneakers with Jordan on them (retro I know, but apparently the brand is making a comeback). We are constantly bombarded with messages encouraging a materialistic attitude… even from a young age… when there are so many more important things to be concerned with

      • Dena says:

        No, no…I’m glad you shared your thoughts! I always appreciate a healthy, respectful discussion. I hope I didn’t leave you feeling otherwise and, for the record, I strongly agree with your last post 🙂

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