Issue 370 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


Jack Hitt’s essay on the deforested island of Nauru [“Island of the Damned,” July 2006] reminded me of the mining towns of Kentucky and West Virginia: the slag heaps and bare bones of mountains whose tops have been removed. Somehow the reforestation never arrives. Nauru may be scarier to look at, but not more sorrowful.

Juanita Owens New York, New York

I was captivated by Jack Hitt’s essay until he chose the phrase “an Appalachian quality” to evoke Nauru’s desolation. Appalachia encompasses huge tracts of national forest, picturesque small towns, and thriving arts communities in addition to strip mines, stray dogs, and piles of trash. We who live here are weary of the stereotype perpetuated by writers too lazy to seek a more accurate, less harmful adjective.

Colleen Anderson Charleston, West Virginia

I enjoyed Arnie Cooper’s interview with Richard Heinberg about the end of cheap oil [“Peak Experience,” July 2006]. Thirty-five years ago I took some LSD and walked around the Florida State campus looking at the ridiculous arrangement we call “civilization.” Most of the information Heinberg offers was available at that time, but anyone who talked about it was considered a wacko.

Before we grow tearful about losing our cars, perhaps we should ask ourselves if this may not be for the best. Picture a future in which people live in ancient metal boxes and amuse their children with stories about how those boxes once rolled anywhere you wanted to go. The earth is green and lush, the gardens are productive, and humanity is humble.

Esmond Lyons Glens Falls, New York

The introduction to the interview with Richard Heinberg mentioned his extensive garden and fruit trees. I would have been interested to hear what Heinberg has to say about the implications of diet for energy.

A processed and meat-based diet is grossly energy inefficient. In Diet for a New America, John Robbins writes that “the production of meats, dairy products, and eggs accounts for one-third of the total amount of all raw materials used for all purposes in the United States. In contrast, growing grains, vegetables, and fruits is a model of efficiency, using less than 5 percent of the raw material consumption as does the production of meat.”

Changing to a vegan diet will improve your health, stop the horrific suffering of animals, save energy, and take money away from megacorporations, funneling it instead to small independent farmers who love and depend on the earth.

Eric Rothwarf Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Richard Heinberg states, “I personally feel that the events of 9/11 have not been properly investigated or explained by the government. I think anyone who believes the official government story should do a little deeper digging.” This is how many people feel, not just “conspiracy theorists.” There is a virtual news blackout on anything other than the size and shape of the future 9/11 memorial. Go to and read the October 2004 article about the 9/11 Commission Report, or visit

Rich Paolillo Winthrop, New York

In the June 2006 issue David Romtvedt writes, “When casino workers punch out, do they return to being real people?” [“Red Politics and Blue in Wyoming”].

I have been a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas, Nevada, for twenty-three years, and I have always been a real person. I do not drink, gamble, or smoke. I volunteer to drive older people who can no longer drive themselves. I send regular donations to Public Citizen to fight our corrupt government. I don’t own a computer, a cellphone, or a microwave, or even subscribe to cable TV. How much more real can I be?

Linda Allison Las Vegas, Nevada

I appreciate David Romtvedt’s attempt to humanize the residents of so-called “red states,” but his essay seems disturbingly naive. I was particularly struck by the fact that Romtvedt argues for Wyoming’s openness to gays with no mention of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student whose 1998 murder became the most widely publicized incident of “gay bashing” to date. While the entire state should not be held responsible for a single heinous crime, Romtvedt’s failure to note Shepard’s murder seems disingenuous at best, like a lawyer withholding evidence.

Though I’m sure Romtvedt is right about the fundamental goodness of his fellow Wyoming residents, he spends more time trying to persuade readers to sympathize with them than he does examining how those good people have been misled by bad leaders, such as their native son and our current vice president, Dick Cheney.

Lewis DeSimone San Francisco, California
David Romtvedt responds:

Lewis DeSimone is right about how horrible the Matthew Shepard murder was, but that single murder is not a meaningful measure of the degree to which gay citizens can safely participate in life here in Wyoming. The fact that we have a gay mayor for our second-largest city says something at least as potent about this place as Shepard’s murder. Had I written about Matthew Shepard, I would have mentioned the volunteer “angels” — both locals and out-of-towners — who kept antigay demonstrators from the Midwest from disrupting his funeral and the trial of his killers. I might also have written about the Reverend Fred Phelps, whose antigay website is called, and who comes to Wyoming each fall to protest because he considers the state a haven for homosexuals. When Phelps visited Casper several years ago, a community group arranged a ritual cleansing of the site where he spoke, and the local fire department hosed down the area to wash Phelps’s hateful residue away. These examples make it clear to me that we are struggling here in Wyoming, as people are all over the country, to ensure full civil liberties for all our citizens.

My high-school-senior son seems to have no goals or motivation. I want him to have a satisfying life, and I see higher education as one way for him to find satisfaction. I’ve had trouble striking a balance between pushing him in that direction and letting him find his own way.

In the July 2006 Correspondence, twenty-four-year-old Courtney Rosser responded to Nancy W.’s Readers Write submission [April 2006] about her struggle to accept without judgment her own son’s life decisions. They have given me the only sane answer to my dilemma, which is to encourage my son to figure out what makes him happy and to love and support him unconditionally while he does. He may not turn out as I had hoped or expected, but if he knows that I love him for who he is, it will help him succeed no matter what he becomes.

Pat D. Largo, Florida

Courtney Rosser writes, “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?”

Having been my mother’s black sheep, and having managed to attain adulthood without an ounce of her approval, I believe that all a child wants from a mother is love — which may not always mean approval. A child who grows up wanting approval will likely become an adult who seeks approval in place of love.

Kathy B. Fort Myers, Florida

I’m a real-estate broker and a Mormon. I voted for George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton nauseates me.

In spite of that, I still like you, Sy [Sy Safransky’s Notebook, July 2006]. And I’m thankful you send your monthly 48-page detachment of murderously glorious words across this continent, because you inspire all of us to think and to try to understand and to believe.

So you can park yourself in my kitchen anytime, and I’ll pour you a cup of coffee just the way you like it. We’ll agree to disagree, and thank God we live in a time and place where people can publish what they like without fear of retribution, censorship, or reprisal. America, in all her faded glory, is glorious yet.

Kyle E. Denning San Marcos, California

Thank you for publishing Victoria Patterson’s family memoir of alcoholism [“Sweet Rolls and Vodka,” July 2006]. Though the idea of alcoholism as a family illness has been gaining acceptance in recent decades, the strange interplay between environment and genetics is still not fully understood. Patterson’s essay reminds us of the stigma and denial that still afflict the alcoholic family, and evokes the pain, messiness, and joy that occur within it. The essay also illustrates that both the practicing and the recovering alcoholics in the family must bear responsibility for their roles in the self-destructive drama.

By creating a sympathetic and realistic account of the core truths of the alcoholic family, Patterson has made an impressive addition to the literature of recovery. I recommend her essay to anyone who seeks to understand how alcoholism damages, defines, and even strengthens the families in which it appears.

Robert Clark Young Sacramento, California

Your magazine is too damn short!

Micki Licciardi Flowery Branch, Georgia
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