I find it interesting when a writer who is as eloquent, longsuffering and respected among his peers as Wendell Berry becomes almost irrelevant in public discourse. He isn’t trying to sell us anything. He doesn’t seem concerned about his image. He doesn’t scream or get arrested or perform. And we don’t even have to tune him out; his writing goes out on a frequency that is rarely even heard.
Take, for instance, what he has to say in his newest collection of essays, Our Only World, about the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. After unequivocal sympathy with those who were injured or lost a loved one, he adds: “What I am less and less in sympathy with is the rhetoric and the tone of official indignation. Public officials cry out for justice against the perpetrators. I too wish them caught and punished. But I am unwilling to have my wish spoken for me in a tone of surprise and outraged innocence.” And this is where, if anyone thought Berry’s writing important, they would be protesting: “The event in Boston is not unique or rare or surprising or in any way new. It is only another transaction in the commerce of violence.”
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