As a retired Marine Corps pilot who fought in the South Pacific in World War II, I found General Douglas MacArthur’s personal statement about the uselessness of war noteworthy. “Dugout” Doug was a hero to the nation, but not to the men of the Marine Corps. Almost sixty years later, though, he is more than redeemed in my eyes by these few words.
Like Josephine W. Johnson, quoted after MacArthur, I am sick of war. Around 1960, a neighbor down the road started taking orders for bomb shelters; against a pastoral backdrop, he set up a sample shelter, painted red, white, and blue, listing its capacity for children and adults. My kids passed that obscenity on their school bus daily for years. Last week, I joined Veterans for Peace.
As a New York resident, I was brought to tears by your Sunbeams supplement in the October issue. It echoed my wavering thoughts ever since this disaster occurred, and put into words some of what I feel entirely at a loss to say.
I finally received the October issue of The Sun tonight. Funny, but I knew as I resisted the violence and hate around me since September 11, 2001, that your magazine would help me find solid ground in this mess.
The quote from Anne Frank touched me most deeply, perhaps because, when I continue to say that there must be another way, people whom I love and respect come up with the fight against the Nazis as an example of a good reason for violence.
I read the quote to my sons. My eight-year-old, Colin, didn’t know Anne Frank’s story, so his older brother explained it to him. As Colin was drifting off to sleep tonight, he put his arms around my neck and said, “Mommy, when I die, I want to be famous for saying, ‘Put your arms around the world and watch the good things that happen.’ ” I’m with him.
What Kevin Bales had to say [“The New Slavery,” interview by Derrick Jensen, October 2001] was interesting, tragic, and moving. But I was surprised he made no mention of the chattel slavery in Sudan, where Islamic groups in the north are kidnapping and enslaving animist and Christian tribes from the south. This is the most well-known case of outright slavery in the modern world, and has been extensively covered in the press. There have been some attempts in the U.S. to raise funds to pay for the slaves’ freedom. Perhaps Bales mentions them in his book, but I would have thought the situation deserved mention in the interview, as well.
“The New Slavery” affected me deeply. I did not know this still went on in our world — except, of course, in my own home.
The use of violence, threats, promises of better treatment: it was all too familiar to me. The corruption that exists in small towns, especially when one is wed to a powerful attorney who supposedly represents the law, is amazing. American women even today are enslaved.
The other day, when I first read Sy Safransky’s October “Notebook,” I thought how I’d like to strangle him. He so perfectly mirrored my own struggle, my own proud stupidity. I can see that he would rather describe the struggle (which he does so beautifully) than sing and dance in victory over it. I know because I am the same way.
With the route to enlightenment mapped out neatly and clearly by a dozen wise prophets in a dozen articulate ways, Safransky chooses to continue struggling. I can come to only one reasonable conclusion: he writes so well that it must be God’s will for him to share the gift of expressing the struggle. God doesn’t want him to get through the door to heaven, even though he knows how to open it. No, God wants him to writhe outside and in full view of paradise and continue to describe the doorway and the pretty glass and the shining faces in the windows for others who are on their way.
Perhaps this is the point of most of the writing in The Sun: that it describes and embraces the journey — that most urgent and significant journey that we are all, consciously or unconsciously, embarked upon; that journey home, past the illusion of our devastating separateness.
I used to associate long-term thinking with responsible, insightful thinking. The interview with Stewart Brand helped change that. Though good at predicting cultural trends and new technologies, Brand seems to shy away from seeing how things could and should be. His pat, typical North American response to the compatibility of the high-tech global economy and an ecological outlook sums it up best: “Prosperity is absolutely essential to environmentalism. It is such a luxury to be concerned about the environment.” Nonsense. It is the health of our environment that is absolutely essential to any sane notion of prosperity. The absurdity is that we routinely place private profit and high-tech gadgets before the ecological consequences of our actions. What are the causes for our environmental movement in the first place?
If anything is readily apparent, it is that the high-tech global economy has no room for anyone unwilling to jump on its bandwagon. The gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen, and our corporate-directed foreign policy — enforced by our obscenely overfunded military — will continue to fight for the rich under the erroneous conviction that they are protecting democracy.
What really astounds me, however, is the way visionaries like Brand see a world run by a handful of the super-rich individuals who control the Monsantos, Exxons, CNNs, and Wal-Marts and act as if this is acceptable. Big clocks and language libraries do little for decimated indigenous cultures, or to restore sovereignty to individuals whose rights and freedoms are being usurped by powerful corporations.
It should not be difficult to envision a point in time when humankind recognizes our place in the universe, is humbled by this realization, and acts accordingly. I do not suggest abandoning technology; rather, we must reassess the reasons technology exists and, more importantly, define the end goal of human effort. There must be a more equitable, more humane, and more ecologically sustainable way of forging ahead. A ten-thousand-year clock seems pointless without it.
I was sad to see Stewart Brand hyping the tired myth that the rich (and only the rich) care about the environment.
I’d like to know what Brand would say to the women I met in Kenya who are part of the Green Belt tree-planting movement. Twenty years ago, faced with growing desertification, activist Wangari Maathai first turned to government foresters for help, but they were beholden to a dictator more interested in selling off public forests than protecting them. So Wangari decided to go to the people most affected by Kenya’s environmental crisis: the poor. That was twenty million trees ago.
It’s the well-off who have the resources to insulate themselves from environmental crises. They can buy bottled water when the local sources go foul, install air conditioners when global warming heats up, buy houses in neighborhoods not located on former toxic waste dumps. Brand has got it just the opposite. It’s a luxury not to be concerned about the environment.
I am still stunned by the letter in the September Correspondence from Name Withheld, who is raising two “very sophisticated girls, ages nine and eleven,” and wants you to tailor the magazine’s content to meet their boundaries. What if my cat doesn’t like this month’s cover? Would you change it to satisfy her?
The Sun is as life is: sometimes ugly and dark, other times vibrantly messy and wonderful. We don’t get to pick everything that influences our kids, but if this parent wants to limit her children’s access to material, then it’s her job, not yours. Depriving the rest of us, who love the whole palette, seems selfish.
I purchased the August issue of The Sun just a few days before September 11, and I could not help but think and feel that what Ramsey Clark described as the true intent of U.S. foreign policy [“Neighborhood Bully,” interview by Derrick Jensen] was a crucial factor in the atrocity those terrorists committed against the U.S. government and its citizenry.
I am troubled that I cannot feel the depth of sorrow and outrage almost everyone around me is feeling. Is that because I refuse to watch the TV, with its endless portrayal of destruction, death, grief, suffering, and heroism? My ears have heard and my eyes have read enough.
The innocent always pay the price for war, declared or not. What happened is horrific. I fear the aftermath even more.
I am in prison, and any light shed on this dying place is more than just welcome; it is followed around the way a flower follows the sun. A good story here is life, you see.
Alison Luterman [“Another Vigil at San Quentin,” August 2001] not only managed to shed light; she opened doors between inmates that are rarely opened by anything except sports, sex, or complaints.
Getting any of my peers to read a poem is next to impossible, but my next door neighbor — a black man from Virginia who, in over a year, has not said a word to me — heard me reading the poem to a guy downstairs who can’t read, and he asked me if he could read it. Later that night, he asked if he could let one of his brothers a few cells away read it.
It is now a week later, and The Sun has shone in almost every cell.
I’m not saying that Luterman’s poem has been fully read and understood by all, but it did start them talking. In here, where we are locked down seventy-one out of every seventy-two hours, talking to each other is a big step.