The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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I opened the October 2005 issue expecting to be transported into someone else’s reality. Instead Thea Sullivan’s essay “Trying” thrust me right back into my own mourning.
I recently experienced my first (and hopefully last) miscarriage. I, too, have listened to well-meaning individuals refer to this death as “God’s will,” while others have tiptoed around the topic, unsure of how to approach it, or me. I pretend I’m fine, but I can’t help feeling enraged, because I did everything “right”: I am married. I am thirty-one. I have a good job. I own a home. I don’t smoke or drink or do drugs. I wanted this baby.
I am somewhat consoled by those who say, “I’m sorry this happened to you.” I only want my loss to be validated. To Sullivan, and to all women who have suffered similar losses, I say: I’m sorry this happened to you.
During my years as an alcohol-and-drug counselor and psychologist, I had many clients who felt significant guilt over the actions of others. As I read L.B.’s contribution to the September 2005 Readers Write on “Taking a Stand,” it occurred to me that she might be feeling guilty about her stepfather’s decision to kill her mother and himself. I hope she is not.
I am sure L.B. has at least thought that her mother might still be alive had she not chosen that particular time to confront her stepfather. Second-guessing oneself in such a situation is quite natural, especially after years of maintaining the family “secret” no matter what the emotional cost. But I want to assure L.B. that what happened is in no way her fault. It was her stepfather’s choice.
I enjoyed Alison Clement’s essay “Lessons from Basra” [September 2005]. As a middle-school teacher, I, too, question the type of behavior we are modeling for our youth when we go to war.
I wonder what a principal would do in the following situation: A boy has beat up another student, claiming that the student was plotting to attack him. Upon searching the accused student’s belongings and interviewing classmates, the principal finds no evidence to support the boy’s claim. What consequence would be appropriate for the boy? For a nation?
While it is distressing to read of the American kleptocracy’s rape of Third World countries to satisfy its own greed, it is encouraging to learn that John Perkins, who was one of the U.S.’s “economic hit men,” underwent a moral conversion and rectified his life [“An Offer They Can’t Refuse,” interview by Pat MacEnulty, September 2005]. It must have taken great courage for him to write Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which tells how the system needs to be changed if the U.S. is once more to be respected around the globe. This surely won’t happen until after the 2008 election, and maybe not even then, as the most likely candidates for the presidency are known not for their integrity, but for their ability to raise money.
Could someone please organize a political party with John Perkins as the presidential candidate? His honest and moral vision of how our country should behave would be a welcome change for a disillusioned citizenry.
After an extensive home renovation, I found myself overwhelmed by stacks of magazines I hadn’t had time to read. I felt as if I were cheating when I skipped ahead to my September Sun, leaving the previous six issues unread. Every single piece resonated with me. Now I can’t wait to work my way backward. A past issue of The Sun never grows stale.
In the September Correspondence, many readers responded to Jim Guinness’s interview with Thom Hartmann [“Crimes against Democracy,” June 2005], which described the possibility of voting fraud in U.S. elections. Helen Etters asked, “But what are we to do?” Richard Thieltges remarked, “What’s missing from this rambling interview are any concrete recommendations for real change that are rooted in reality.” I have a suggestion for both of them: When our choices at the voting booth no longer produce the results we want, it is time to look at the most powerful form of voting that Americans have: shopping.
Every dollar spent is a vote that says, “Keep doing whatever it took to produce this.” Too many people complain about the status quo, then drive their big car to a corporate-owned restaurant and eat subsidized, factory-farmed meat while wearing sweatshop-produced clothing. I live in Sweden now, and it’s becoming the same over here. We must look at our purchases and decide if they really reflect what we care about, and then cast our votes with our dollars.
Reading Cindy Y. Ogasawara’s Readers Write submission on “Saturday Night” [July 2005] was a bittersweet experience for me. There I was, alone on a Saturday night, sitting at my kitchen table, eating a brownie and drinking a cup of tea. The bitter part is this: how will the David M. Goldsteins of the world meet the Cindy Y. Ogasawaras if we’re all home alone on Saturday night? The sweet part is that, as my friend Scott says, love can happen anywhere at any time.
I want to believe in the sweet and not succumb to the bitter.
My brother died in an auto accident in July of this year. He was not just an older sibling to me, but a mentor, a confidant, and a friend. His death has brought me face to face with the impenetrable barrier between the living and the dead.
Genie Zeiger’s essay “20, 40, 60, 80” [July 2005] spoke eloquently of the simple moments we share with those we love and how terribly we miss them when they are gone. Reading this piece so soon after my brother’s death was a moment of serendipity. Zeiger put into words what I cannot express about the process of grieving.
As I traveled to northwestern Illinois for my brother’s memorial service, I passed the spot where his accident occurred. The area was beautiful: a misty valley of rolling green hills, small farms, and Victorian buildings. I tell myself now that the last thing my brother saw was that view. It doesn’t make my loss any easier, but it provides some comfort.
Gerry Hitt writes in the July Correspondence about “the downside of giving people unearned Social Security, housing, and medical privileges: if you don’t expect anything from people, you won’t get it.”
I work in a psycho-social rehabilitation program for mentally ill adults. Most became disabled in childhood or adolescence. Some of our program members cannot tell time, make change for a dollar, or read above a first-grade level. I recently had a discussion with one woman about whether or not I have superpowers. (We concluded that I don’t, but it is entirely possible we will have the discussion again tomorrow.)
Our government, in its largess, gives these people less than $550 a month, plus Medicaid and — in our state — subsidized housing. Many end up with twenty dollars of spending money a week. They cannot marry without losing these benefits. They cannot own a house or a car, meaning their parents must set up complicated and expensive trusts to care for them after they, the parents, die.
Some program members are well taken care of. Others are exploited. One woman lived with a relative who made her sleep on a couch and took all her money, refusing to give her even the dollar a day our program charges for lunch. When social-service agencies tried to intervene, the whole family disappeared into the night.
Above all, our program members are people who laugh, cry, and fully experience life. Yes, some steal, panhandle, bum cigarettes, and use drugs and alcohol, but their poor decisions make them no less human.
If this is how we, as a society, choose to treat our most vulnerable members, what does that say about us?
I was standing at my bathroom sink this morning when I saw an ant crawling across the counter. I said, “Ant, if you crawl under the cord of my electric toothbrush, I’ll kill you.”
The ant crawled under the cord. Then he stopped, waved his antennae at me twice, and crawled away.
Before I started reading The Sun, I would have smashed that sucker without thinking. Since I’ve discovered The Sun, I am at least thinking again.