In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Thank you for printing Virginia Eliot’s essay “Ways to Show Affection” in your May 2006 issue. It is important that women’s abortion stories be heard, and that women be encouraged to share them.
I have worked at an abortion clinic in a fairly progressive state for the past two years. We provide compassionate care and nonjudgmental, accurate information about abortion to our clients. Contrary to what some may believe, these clients are of every race, religion, political persuasion, age, and economic category. It is precisely this fact that compels me to provide the care I do. As a woman who partners with men, I could easily find myself in the same situation. I just hope that if I ever do have an unwanted pregnancy, the choice of abortion will still be available.
During the past five years, how many of your interviews have been with men, and how many with women? As each successive issue arrives, I find myself increasingly shocked that apparently no one on your staff notices the gross gender imbalance in the selection of Sun interviewees. The myriad activists, artists, scientists, and humanitarians of the world who happen to be women seem to have fallen below your radar. It is cause for disappointment in a publication that avows so many positive values.
Mandeliene Smith is a wonderfully evocative writer. Her short story “Mercy” [May 2006] kept me in a perfect state of dread, anticipation, and admiration all the way through to the beautiful ending. This is what good writing is, and there is far too little of it in mainstream publishing circles.
As the writer who interviewed Dave Foreman [“Redneck for Wilderness,” December 2005], I disagree with some letter writers in the April 2006 Correspondence.
Jesse Wolf Hardin’s memories about the origins of Earth First! don’t jibe with the facts. If an alternative version to Susan Zakin’s authoritative account of the group, Coyotes and Town Dogs, exists, I have never seen it. Hardin also decries designated wilderness areas for hurting rural people and communities, but counties with wilderness areas actually have faster growth in employment, per capita income, and total income than counties without wilderness areas. That’s not to mention the other benefits of wilderness to rural residents (I’m one myself): protection of watersheds, soil, water quality, ecological stability, plant and animal gene pools for future medical research, wildlife habitat for hunters, and multiple recreational opportunities.
I invite Felicia Nimue Ackerman to furnish evidence of any wolf predation on humans whatsoever in the wilds of North America. None exists. I was saddened to find such lies in the pages of The Sun.
It is tempting to blame consumerism for environmental destruction, as Micah Posner does, but consumer capitalism can be traced back only to the First World War, whereas environmental destruction on this continent began several centuries before that. Posner’s idea of a “real man” as someone who eschews modern conveniences misses the point. The conservation movement needs all kinds of supporters, not just those who live up to Posner’s ideals, or mine.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman writes, “When the earth comes first, humans come second, if at all.”
I am sorry to be the one to break this to her, but we are parasites who live off this planet, and we have been poisoning it and ourselves in the name of profit since the Industrial Revolution began. We have contaminated our food supply, our water, and our air, and we have the audacity to complain about the high cost of healthcare.
Which humans are we now putting first? Certainly not all humans. The United States has been exploiting people since its inception. Americans feel threatened by the idea that we may have to give up some of our creature comforts so that all humanity can continue to live on this planet.
The planet will survive no matter what we do to it, but if we don’t start putting the earth first, we will undoubtedly kill ourselves off. It’s our choice, and we are not choosing just for ourselves, but for future generations.
In his Readers Write piece on “Decisions” [April 2006], Francis D. seems to wonder if he made a mistake when he agreed to have his father’s breathing tube removed.
When Francis’s dad grabbed his hand and said, “Home,” Francis thought he meant his physical home and told him, “Yes, we’ll get you home.” But I understood “home” to mean something different: the final home, the one his dad would go to when he left his worn-out body. His dad then looked agitated, perhaps not, as Francis thought, because he realized he would never leave the hospital, but because his son had misunderstood this important message. To clear up the misunderstanding, his dad said, “Pull the plug.”
To me this father’s final words expressed gratitude and relief that he was being allowed to go “home.”
In your April 2006 issue, Nancy W. writes in Readers Write about her struggle to accept her twenty-four-year-old son’s life decisions, rather than judge him for them.
I am twenty-four years old and have spent the past year traveling and working in New Zealand. I plan to spend at least another year working there and enjoying the country. I have no long-term plans for a career, but I live each day in a way that’s true to myself and my heart, and I am as happy as I can imagine being right now.
My mother has struggled to accept my choices, but rather than question and lecture me, she has been nothing but supportive and loving. Her unwavering support has given me the strength to pursue whatever makes me happy, and for that I am grateful.
Nancy W. is absolutely correct that all a child wants from a mother is approval. If we cannot find it with her, then where will we find it?
I was struck by the quote from Annie Dillard in Sy Safransky’s April 2006 “Notebook”: “What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?”
I teach English at a community college and have been haunted lately by the illness of one of my young students. Mine is one of the classes he has not yet withdrawn from as he undergoes chemotherapy. This has nothing to do with my ability as an instructor; my class is a prerequisite he needs to take other courses at the college.
Nonetheless, his predicament makes me want to be a better instructor than I am. I want every class to result in foundation-shaking insights. I want to expose him to the full range of human emotions that literature dares to describe. I want . . . well, I want a lot of things, not the least of which would be a different diagnosis for him. In the meantime, I’m left feeling woefully inadequate, as though my classes are rife with exactly the sort of triviality my student would be justified in raging against. And then I remember, This isn’t about you, and I damn myself for having entertained the notion that it was, even for a moment.
Would that my student and I had more time. Would that I could be that sort of ideal instructor every day. Would that we all could be.
One of my friends, knowing how hard it is for me to get my hands on good reading material at my Peace Corps post, sent me a copy of The Sun along with several newsmagazines. I’ve quickly passed on the newsmagazines to people in my village, but The Sun has stayed with me. Every time I read it, some new aspect of a story jumps out at me. Having read the issue cover to cover three times now, I am still reluctant to pass it on; who knows what I may discover from a fourth reading?
Suzanne Murray’s essay “Adrift” [March 2006] touched something deep inside me. After I read it, I cried silently as I rode the train on a sunny spring morning.
I agree that our culture tries to hide from grief. I lost my own dad to cancer when I was eight and don’t have many memories of him. The father Murray describes, who laughed, who experimented, who taught, whose spirit was evident even behind the stern veneer — I’ve never known my own father that way.
I was sorry to see Karen Karvonen, in her introduction to “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” [March 2006], label people as “schizophrenic teens” and “psychotics.” Such labeling minimizes and negates these individuals’ other life experiences and restricts their identity to their mental illness. Writing “teens with schizophrenia” instead may seem like a trivial revision, but it helps people with mental-health disabilities create an identity beyond their diagnosis.
Packing for a trip to Alaska, I brought along some old issues of The Sun a friend had given me. I had never heard of your magazine, but I picked up an issue midflight and could not stop reading. The photography especially captivated me, much more than the photos in other photography magazines on the newsstands. And the essays, stories, and poetry reminded me how wonderful humanity is, even in these troubled times.
I have been a loyal subscriber to The Sun for the past fourteen years and have carefully preserved all the issues in a pink milk crate — and I am not a saver. Recently, however, the community college where I teach sponsored an “entertainment drive” to collect books, magazines, and CDs for the troops in Iraq, and I decided to donate my Sun collection to the cause.
It was a hard decision, but if those magazines can lift the heart of even one soldier, it will have been worth letting go of my treasure. I think of those magazines as messengers of peace sent out into a troubled world.