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Patriotic Spending
Commentary by Jane Armstrong

audio Listen to Armstrong's commentary.

Oct. 3, 2001 -- We've planted the stars and stripes in our front garden, held flickering candles in the darkness, pinned ribbons to our lapels and implored every conceivable god to assist our country in its time of desperate need. After two weeks of vigils and ceremonies, our leaders now urge us to move on, to refuse to allow terrorists to destroy the American way of life.

They ask us to demonstrate confidence in the strength of our economy to withstand an attack on one of its most prominent symbols. In the face of danger and uncertainty, they ask us to dry our tears, get back to work and spend our money. This an effort I'm trying to support.

What I lack as a patriot and churchgoer, I more than make up for as a consumer. I shop for many reasons -- from simple need to complex greed -- but never once, until now, has it occurred to me to shop for the United States of America, and so I have added shopping to my list of difficult patriotic duties.

"My income is modest and my few investments tanked prior to September 11, but I'm willing to run up my credit cards if a display of consumer confidence really will cower our foes into submission."

Jane Armstrong

I don't have a lot of money to spend at the moment. My income is modest and my few investments tanked prior to September 11, but I'm willing to run up my credit cards if a display of consumer confidence really will cower our foes into submission.

In order to save my country, I've decided to buy the small luxuries I've been putting off until the economy recovers -- a cranberry red, twill, slip-covered sofa, a tilting trestle-base floor mirror, a stretch wool suit in dark-brown heather, and a ridiculously expensive item from a catalog that sells tools for serious readers.

I don't have the necessary training to measure the effect of my one-woman attempt to revitalize the economy, but I do know that if I could truly shop for the good of the nation, I'd make these purchases -- a time machine that we could dial back to several years before September 11, 2001, a table big enough to accommodate everyone in the world who feels their voices haven't been heard, and a leader who actually possesses the power to see into other souls and the wisdom and integrity to act upon what he finds there in order to build lasting peace.

But even if such things were for sale, I wouldn't be able to contribute to their purchase. My credit cards are maxed out from my patriotic shopping spree.

Jane Armstrong is an assistant editor for The Mississippi Review. She teaches writing at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.