With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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I have been receiving The Sun for almost a year now. I remember reading an interview in my first issue about the lies our government tells. It scared me to hear someone voice my darkest suspicions. I put the magazine away and avoided subsequent issues.
When the March 2004 issue came and I saw the cover photo of a young woman with haunting eyes wearing a “No War” bandana, I couldn’t avoid it any longer. Inside was Diana Schmitt’s beautiful interview with David Budbill, “Weapons in the War for Human Kindness.”
I’ve decided I need to be brave and face the facts about our world, our government, and our hardened hearts. If I turn away because it’s too painful to look, then there really is no hope.
In the March 2004 Correspondence, Sherry Franzen wrote in admiration of Jeffrey Luer [Readers Write on “Idealism,” December 2003], an activist who is now doing time for burning SUVs to protest global warming.
Sadly, to judge by what Luer wrote, he seems not to have learned much from his three years in prison. He still believes he’s doing time for his idealism. It seems to me he’s doing time for torching SUVs.
Franzen talks about “self-education.” Self-education is when I decide to get rid of my SUV, not when someone decides to burn it for me. People need to make those decisions for themselves.
For the record: I don’t own an SUV, and I think it would be great if our government would take the initiative on fuel efficiency.
I find it curious that Linda Gallagher, who wrote to complain about The Sun’s anti-Bush tenor [Correspondence, March 2004], would actually read The Sun. Few magazines give such an open forum for liberal thought these days.
To say that President Bush is working for peace, as Gallagher does, is laughable. “Character and integrity”? Is lying about the reasons for war and murdering innocent Iraqi civilians an indication of good character? I think not.
My husband and I enjoyed “My Brother the Superhero,” by Katy Williams [March 2004]. We were both so immersed in the world of the story that we read it a second time, not wanting it to be over. We could not help loving every character: the anxious single mother, the charming con-artist brother, the charmed son.
I winced, however, when I read Sy Safransky’s March Notebook, in which he revealed to Sun readers that his wife’s snoring has gotten louder because she’s menopausal. How little he understands about “loving a woman as she grows older.” Does he think his wife would tell readers about his own symptoms of aging? He should know better.
I just got my final issue of The Sun, and am I glad. Such a dreary and pretentious publication. So many self-absorbed people! The most offensive to me was Sy Safransky’s March 2004 Notebook. How mean-spirited he is to discuss his wife’s snoring. No matter how lovingly expressed, that information is too personal and casts her in an unkind light. One expects such from a third-rate comedian, not a supposedly sensitive intellectual.
Thank you for Arnie Cooper’s interview with Vandana Shiva [“Biting the Hand That Feeds,” February 2004]. By depriving people of the means to sustain themselves, corporations are creating a world of slaves who will be both expendable and utterly dependent on corporations for their survival. What does it say about our culture when such revelations do not make the front pages of our newspapers, which instead are devoted to “news” of an entertainer’s exposed breast?
I reject the Left’s tendency — often displayed in The Sun — to disparage masculinity. Vandana Shiva makes a grave error when she calls modern developments in food production the “masculinization of agriculture.” Although men may control the industrialization and commodification of farming, these men are no more representative of their gender than the millions of other men who oppose them.
I see masculinity in my love for all the growing things of this planet, which many of my male ancestors devoted themselves to protecting and nurturing. Men’s role in providing life does not end with our desire to plant the seed. Most of us want to see the seeds grow and become food to feed our families and communities, or trees to build our homes, or forests to provide habitat for animals.
There are many men who are proud to say, “I planted that tree,” or better yet, “My father planted that tree,” or best of all, “My grandfather planted that tree.”
Gillian Kendall’s essay on all her possessions [“All My Things Considered,” February 2004] was right on the mark. I am an eBay seller and have sifted through many estate sales, yard sales, garage sales, thrift-store bins, and even the occasional overstuffed dumpster. I know too well how a person can become weighed down by material accumulation thanks to someday-I’m-going-to-use-this thinking. Some of my happiest days were living in a college dorm, when I had only a few clothes and the books on my desk.
I try to live simply after seeing how having too much keeps most folks immobile, frozen among the dust of memories or unfulfilled dreams. I hope that, before I die, I can give away, throw out, or sell almost everything I own. I want it all to go into good hands instead of into the public landfill or piled at the curb with a “Free” sign, the wind picking at the pages of my poems.
Lorenzo Milam’s essay about progressive radio [“A Plan to Change the World,” January 2004] mentions his involvement with radio station KDNA-FM in St. Louis. In 1969 I was a student at Principia College, about forty miles upriver from the Arch. We could just barely pick up KDNA, and it was a marvelous radio station. Listening to it was a significant part of my education.
I have long wanted to thank those who made that station possible. They helped reorganize the thinking of this Southerner, who just barely avoided the quicksand of unhealthy tradition.
Thanks for including a photo of the staff in the January 2004 issue. It was a treat to be able to put faces with names. However — and I say this with love and all due respect (and as a pasty white girl myself) — you need some people of color on that staff.
I have enjoyed your magazine for about ten years, but have decided not to renew my subscription. Ever since 9/11, I’ve moved to the Right. I am no longer anti-military and am strongly in support of capitalism as we know it, however flawed it may be. I find myself turned off by anything that smells of the progressive/leftist/anti-globalization agenda. Furthermore, these forces are increasingly anti-rational and anti-Semitic. They apologize for some of the most backward and loathsome regimes on the planet. I found particularly offensive an essay by Starhawk [“The Boy Who Kissed the Soldier,” August 2003] that was sympathetic to Palestinians and unfairly critical of Israel.
While I will miss most aspects of your publication, as a thinking person I can no longer support its political agenda. Please let me know if you decide to change the ideology of The Sun, or leave politics out of it altogether.
When you’re planning another discussion of spirituality and religion, consider exploring mainstream Islam. Sufism is probably more The Sun’s cup of tea, but any scholar, historian, or practitioner of Islam knows that one doesn’t need to go to the mystical fringes to find meaning in this beautiful, humanistic religion.
An in-depth interview or thoughtful essay would also go a long way toward dispelling the stereotypes about Islam presented by the Western press. Although The Sun’s readership is open-minded, I suspect that the misinformation in the media has swayed even those who should know better.
Kent Annan [“I’ll Count These as My Candles,” December 2003] captures in detail and spirit the experience my wife and I are having as Peace Corps volunteers in South Africa.
Nothing in our many years as professional educators and politically aware citizens could have prepared us for the experience of teaching school in the shadows of colonialism and apartheid. As this country prepares to celebrate ten years of “democracy,” we celebrate the moment when an eighth-grader learns to multiply six by eight. We have seen educators unable to comprehend the national curriculum materials, in English or Setswana.
And yet, each morning, the children appear with freshly polished shoes (those who have them) and tattered school uniforms that are nonetheless pressed and clean. Most wear eager faces, though they have not eaten breakfast and will likely not have a nutritionally balanced lunch. And they sit in classrooms that clearly communicate the insignificance of education and children in this new “democracy.” Perhaps the difference between South Africa and Washington, D.C., where I’m from, is only a matter of degree.
But the children do come. And each day our idealism is tested. Can we help the teachers make the best of these sorry circumstances? Can we possibly contribute something that will provide hope for a better day?
Like Annan, my wife and I have access to good medical care and can, at a moment’s notice, be on a jet back to our life in the United States. But like thousands of other returned Peace Corps volunteers, we will never see the world the same way again.
Because we received a photograph with the wrong caption, the description of our April 2004 cover was incorrect. The young Lebanese woman pictured was a participant in an antiwar rally in Washington, D.C., just before the start of the war with Iraq.