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I was truly touched by Alison Luterman’s poem “Driving through Heavy Fog” [May 2000]. She manages to capture the precise emotion I experienced a year after my husband’s suicide, driving along the same road in a rental car, so near the line she thought to cross. I lived what she has written. Reading her poem makes me feel less alone, which is what I think poetry should do.
Paul G. Hawken has written the best article I have read so far [“Skeleton Woman in Seattle,” April 2000] on the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization last November. He managed aptly to describe the odd atmosphere in the streets: a mix of community and tension. People from all walks of life — from schoolchildren to steelworkers — took over downtown to protest the WTO’s Third Ministerial, and Seattle has not been the same since. Never in my life have I encountered such determination on the part of such a large and diverse group. The protests confirmed the obvious — that the unaccountable, unelected WTO is anathema to democracy.
Thank you for publishing Paul G. Hawken’s “Skeleton Woman in Seattle.” He reveals many horrifying facts: that our country is using police-state tactics against its own people; that the WTO has consistently ruled for business and against the environment; that countries are losing their sovereignty and being taken over by the big-money machine; and that unchecked business is turning the world into a global plantation for the rich and powerful.
What I find the most ghoulish, however, are the efforts to force genetically modified crops on consumers and to privatize the world’s water supply. Good grief! If they could, corporations would steal the air from Third World countries and sell it back to them.
As a law student and activist who lives two blocks from the Seattle Convention Center, where the WTO’s Third Ministerial was held, I witnessed and was deeply moved by the spontaneous solidarity among the diverse protestors and residents.
Within ten minutes of arriving at Sixth Avenue and University Street on the morning of November 30, I held in my arms an activist who had been so severely tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed he was near hysterical. Shaking, with his eyes sealed from acute toxic exposure, he managed to tell me that his name was Dan, and that he was from San Francisco. For twenty minutes, I poured water over his face while he moaned and shook.
This scene would be played out again and again over the next several days. I quickly learned about antidotes to tear gas and pepper spray and was careful not to leave my apartment without generous supplies of both, which I would use to aid protestors and neighbors as the police advanced into the streets of my neighborhood.
In the midst of the choppers, the tear gas, and the rubber bullets, people came together in a profound way. Compassion and depth of heart shone through the madness of the police state. Hawken finally wrote the article I’ve been looking for about the protests: one bringing together the spirit and intelligence of the protestors and a thorough analysis of the larger issues.
Derrick Jensen’s interview with Luis Rodriguez [“Urban Renewal,” April 2000] was one of the most powerful your publication has printed for quite some time. For someone to come from the reality Rodriguez did and still hold to the side of compassion is a miracle in itself. We can all learn from his example.
This interview should be put into the hands of those who set social policies. Too often their programs worsen the problems they were created to eliminate.
Lately, my favorite part of The Sun has been the interviews with such humanists as Luis Rodriguez, Frances Moore Lappé [November 1999], and Samuel Epstein [March 2000]. The media landscape is nothing but a dry desert of consumerist notions, but The Sun publishes people who fire my imagination and restore my teetering faith in our innate goodness.
Thank you for acknowledging that capitalism isn’t everything. The Sun is a fragile glimmer of hope in an otherwise horrendous period of conspicuous consumption. All this abundance is, in fact, a phantom devised by rich white men who play with money instead of their children.
I’d like to raise an issue of inconsistency that may have slipped your notice. In his “Notebook” [April 2000], Sy Safransky writes: “If blacks can forgive whites, if Jews can forgive Germans, surely I can forgive this woman whose life was harder than mine.” If a word is being used as a proper noun or proper adjective — like “blacks” is above — then it should be capitalized.
When I entered Cornell University in the fall of 1965, I was a Negro. Before my graduation, we Black students won a struggle to establish an Afro-American-studies program. We were not all “black” of course, but varied in hue. Unarmed, we seized Willard Straight Hall and vowed to defend ourselves if necessary. Through our actions, we achieved part of what Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton called for in Black Power — the right to define ourselves.
I am not “black” in the way Safransky uses the word when he writes: “In Toronto this morning, I walked for hours. I saw a black squirrel. Yes, there are black squirrels in Toronto!”
All Blacks are not black.
I must respond to John Kastner’s beautiful reflection on death [Correspondence, March 2000]. Unlike Kastner, I cannot foresee a time of too much Mozart or ice cream, or too many sunrises.
For thirteen years I have lived with chronic-fatigue syndrome, its associated sleep disorder, often debilitating fibromyalgia, and multiple-chemical sensitivity. Despite trying every allopathic and alternative therapy available, I have nonetheless lost my career, my friends, contact with my family (my doctors sent me to live high on a mountain, fourteen hundred miles from home, in order to heal, which has not happened), my avocations as pianist, cellist, and painter, and several children through miscarriage. Not least, I’ve had to witness the terrible toll my illness has taken on my husband.
Yet I could never, ever get enough of what pleasures remain in my life: my adoring spouse, the two children we do have, books and music, ice cream (for which my stomach pays dearly), and, of course, the natural world in all its splendor — even if only from a bedroom window.
Still, two things Kastner wrote did resonate with me. One is that death defines our life. Everything we love, everything that is beautiful, everyone who is precious would not engender the same joys without the inevitability of our demise. In my case, death is a dependable friend who will eventually end my suffering and the suffering of those around me.
The second is that, even when beckoning my friend most fervently, I am loath to leave the familiar realm of my loved ones and enter the unfathomable. Death is a mystery indeed, and it puts the heart in a vise. But it is necessary to life as we know it. We all depend upon it, particularly those of us who swoon over Mozart, create a beautiful garden, or love another being.
In almost every Correspondence section, I read letters criticizing The Sun’s heavy emotional content. “Lighten up,” they say. “Show us some joy.” Well, let me cast my vote for staying the course. If people want uplifting, inspirational writing, there is a plethora of other publications to feed their hunger. I, for one, rely on The Sun for its dark, truth-telling stories.
After four years of seminary, I am about to be ordained in the Lutheran Church. I love my calling, and I love my job. I have found, however, that the constant requirement to preach “good news” risks short-circuiting my struggles with the reality of life. Every sermon has to end with hope. That’s an honorable goal, but it can also be a burden. I need an outlet for my “shadow self,” a safe, healthy place where I can partake of the darker, grittier side of life.
Your magazine is a saving grace for me. It inspires me, helps me to write better sermons, and reminds me that Good Friday must come before Easter.
Lately, reading The Sun has depressed me. It’s not the content that has me down, but the letters from readers complaining that the magazine is depressing them.
In North America, where the vast majority of Sun readers live, there is plenty to make us happy. We are rich beyond the wildest dreams of most of the world’s population — even those of us who aren’t anywhere near middle class. We have television to calm and entertain us, the Internet to erase all reasons for leaving our neutral-colored homes, and enough living space and fuel for even the most finicky citizen.
Some stories in The Sun are harsh, sure, but they are accurate depictions of the other side of the American Dream. We need to be reminded of this reality, even if we only acknowledge it with a little gasp of emotion when we cut our hand on its sharp edges.
Your magazine has broadened my horizons. Combined with a couple of years in federal prison, The Sun has given me quite an education. I entered the penal system at forty-five years of age, idealistic, naive, and believing I knew most of the answers. Since then, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect, and I’ve discovered an entirely new set of questions. Damn, I hate to be proven wrong!
There is an old saying: when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Your magazine has been a great influence on my perceptions. Previously, I could experience only anger or resignation over the great wrong done to me by the government. I am still convinced that the criminal activity in this country is largely confined within the halls of government, but, thanks to The Sun, I now know that many other people are aware of this and, better yet, can make sense of the mess.
This prison camp is loud and crowded, but the day is perfect, the air is clear and warm, and I am leaving in eleven days. It doesn’t get any better than this!