The Flag, The Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened – by Bill McKibben – independent book review – non-fiction

Though I generally prefer fiction to non-fiction, I read this Bill McKibben book based on the recommendation of a friend who said it was a valuable expose about the intersection of class, race, money, and power. THAT intrigued me. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

THE FLAG, THE CROSS, AND THE STATION WAGON (etc.) is essentially a mini Bill McKibben’s memoir, in which he looks back at pivotal events in his comfortable suburban upbringing (in Lexington, MA) and addresses how these key moments have influenced his life.

But he doesn’t stop there. What made it more powerful for me was how he used those same events to analyze a shift in the American psyche. From a 1960s community-oriented culture with a trajectory toward improving society for all to our current circumstances — where individual freedom, individual success, and individual comfort seem to trump more traditional values of looking out for both your neighbor and the disadvantaged.

Along the way McKibben draws on historical and governmental actions and impressive statistics to weave together a story involving the excesses of American society, declining interest in organized religion, an expanding wealth gap, and, of course, climate change and its implications for poorer countries. Ultimately, his story lands on who now needs to take responsibility for fixing the mess.

Author Bill McKibben
Photo from his website

I recommend the book. I think it would be particular useful for those working in the DEAI (diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion) space. The book is a strong indictment written by a respected, white, Harvard-educated activist, well-known for his environmental work. And, as a result, is probably going to be less threatening and more likely to be accepted by white people who need to recognize the impact their privilege has on the wider world.

More about the author, Bill McKibben.

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