A Pure, High Note of Anguish By Barbara Kingsolver ENGL102 Vulnerability Paper October 25, 2011 Tammy Easler A Pure, High Note of Anguish “A Pure, High Note of Anguish” by Barbara Kingsolver is an essay written right after the September 11, 2011, attacks. Like many of us, Kingsolver felt a need to DO something, but did not know how to help. She decided to address some of the questions that were on everybody’s mind. One of these questions was ‘why were those children dancing in the street? ’ America and the American attitude of ‘our way is the only way’ have created resentment in many countries and cultures around the world.
The children dancing in the street were showing the growing consensus that America finally got what it deserved. America has not felt the effects of war on her soil since the late 1800s, with the exception of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Yes, we have lost military men and women, but from a great distance from our home towns.
We see names in the paper of fallen heroes, and clips on television of war-torn villages, but it does not feel real. The full impact of what war is did not hit home until it actually ‘hit home’. We were not prepared to see our buildings attacked or our citizens killed while going about their daily lives.
We were numb with shock that this could happen to us. How dare they attack us on our own country! We are America! We attack other countries; we drop bombs and destroy other villages.
But we do it to save people; to bring democracy to all those other countries that are doing it all wrong. Kingsolver states that “Some people believe our country needed to learn how to hurt in this new way,” (p. 461) and that “…many people before us have learned honest truths from wrongful deaths. ” (p. 461) Europeans learned this lesson in WWI and WWII.
Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East have all lived with the fear and anger generated by another country, usually led by Americans, which do not agree with their politics or religion. Watching their buildings get blown up, their men, women and children shot in their homes, and tanks rolling down their streets are a common occurrence. America has finally gotten a taste of how it feels to really be at war, up close and personal. Americans see children dancing in the street because we were attacked and thousands of lives were lost and we are horrified at their attitude.
Don’t they realize innocent people were just killed? Of course they do. They’ve witnessed it day in and day out in their own streets for years. They know that America is finally paying its dues for all the destruction and devastation it has dealt out. Kingsolver says “Surely, the whole world grieves for us right now. And surely it also hopes we might have learned, from the taste of our own blood, that every war is both won and lost, and that loss is a pure, high note of anguish like a mother singing to any empty bed. ” (p. 461) For the first time since Pearl Harbor, Americans are feeling a sense of vulnerability.
Foreigners are looked at with suspicion, especially Middle Eastern looking people. We pay more attention to the sound of a plane flying overhead. We are more aware of the people around us on the subway, train or airplane. We’ve let the government strip away many of our civil rights in the name of national security. The rest of the world is praying that we will now see the true price of war. They are hoping we will think twice before we decide to bomb a coordinate on a map or send our soldiers overseas to fight another senseless battle with strangers we call enemies.