In his column last week (“No more worrying about Jindal,” Feb. 27), Sam Brill mocks Bobby Jindal for using the plenty of a simple supermarket as a testament to American abundance. Brill writes, “Americans can do anything. But how exactly do produce and cereal fit in? Is that really what comes to mind when Jindal thinks of American ingenuity?” It truly is a testament to America’s plenitude that Mr. Brill cannot imagine a world without the supreme luxury of supermarkets — an American invention.
Yet history proves that the power of supermarkets should not be underestimated. As historians tell it, a watershed moment in Boris Yeltsin’s life came about when he visited a grocery store in Houston. It is said that he was so amazed by the diversity of goods available that he first insisted it was an American propaganda trick put on for his benefit. After all, not even President Gorbachev and senior Politburo members had access to such choice in the Soviet Union. When he found out that such supermarkets were common across America, Yeltsin became despondent.
In an interview with Russian newsmagazine Ogonyok, Yeltsin later said, “For us, used to empty shelves, canned food, awful, dirty, wrinkled vegetables and equally unappealing fruit, this madness of colors, smells, boxes, packs, sausages, cheeses was … impossible to bear.” It was in this grocery store, a close aide later recounted, that “the last vestige of Bolshevism collapsed” inside Yeltsin. As he continued his tour of the United States, Yeltsin buried his head in his hands and lamented the Soviet system: “What have they done to our poor people?”
The writer is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College.