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David Barsamian’s interview with Andrew J. Bacevich [“Seduced by War,” March 2007] is an interesting and insightful analysis of American militarism. Bacevich manages to convey a lofty ideal while remaining grounded in solid facts. He exposes the core ideology that has guided American political thinking since World War II: a vision of the U.S. as the overseas missionary for democracy. This idea has become so deeply ingrained in our culture that it is difficult to find a political movement willing to criticize it, particularly with regard to the Iraq War. Our politically polarized society needs a voice like Bacevich’s: focused on realistic, beneficial policies for the future, rather than bogged down in the quagmire of ideology found at either end of the political spectrum.

T.J. Wall Ann Arbor, Michigan

As a lifelong liberal who believes strongly in paying as we go, both financially and otherwise, I was pleased to discover a conservative, Andrew J. Bacevich, who shares similar values. Reading David Barsamian’s interview with Bacevich, I thought of President Bush’s mantra about not “cutting and running” in Iraq. And I thought of the gambler’s impulse to double up on a bet after losing, in the firm belief that his luck must turn and his losses will be wiped out in one roll of the dice. I learned my lesson during the high-tech stock-market bubble of 1999. Instead of cutting my losses, I stayed with those risky stocks in the firm belief that they must turn around. I lost 95 percent of the money I’d invested — which fortunately I could afford.

I imagine that if I ran for Congress on the platform that we must get out of Iraq as soon as possible, apologize for our huge mistake, and pay the Iraqis reparations, I’d be jailed for treason. Bacevich helped me understand how this has come to be. The pride of militaristic machismo, I believe, keeps Americans from admitting our mistakes and makes us throw good money after bad, and good lives after those already lost.

Apologizing for mistakes and taking corrective action is not a sign of weakness, as the Bush administration appears to believe. On the contrary, I think it takes much more strength to apologize and fix the mistake than it does to belligerently defend your position to the bitter end. It is also wiser, and more effective.

David A. Ford Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I owe my freedom to America. My Latvian parents declined a long engagement in an open-air Siberian facility, courtesy of comrade Stalin, and came here instead. I grew up with stories of repression and people disappearing in the middle of the night. I understand what the lack of freedom means.

The citizen-soldiers of the American Revolution fought for ideals and goals that were directly related to their lives and their freedom. In so doing, they gave birth to U.S. democracy, which served as an example for the rest of the world to follow.

Our current war culture, described so well by Andrew J. Bacevich, dishonors and disrespects that heritage. Our contemporary armed forces are portrayed as a kind of high-tech Johnny Appleseed brigade, spreading the seeds of democracy, but we ignore the cultures into which we’re throwing our seeds, and we forget the context in which our own democracy came to be. We believe any Iraqi who doesn’t want our seeds must be some kind of insurgent. It’s a perverse distortion of our American heritage.

Andris Grunde Quakertown, Pennsylvania

I agree with everything Andrew J. Bacevich says about George Washington’s farewell address, but I wonder why he made no reference to the most salient point of that speech: in no uncertain terms, Washington warned against developing entangling alliances with some nations and corresponding antipathies toward others. We have ignored this advice at our own peril since World War I, and never more so than now.

The mainstream media today snidely dismiss such views as quaint isolationism and trumpet the virtues of globalism as a foregone conclusion. We will likely never know the benefits of a foreign policy in which our nation minds its own business.

Steve Vetter Boise, Idaho

I love The Sun, but I hate your Bush bashing. Most of your political interviews and essays are one-sided.

No one likes war, but unless they were living under a rock on that fateful September morning in 2001, Americans should understand why a war is raging in Iraq. The U.S. was attacked. Thousands of innocent people were killed. Who would want a president too weak to send a message to the terrorists that America will not stand for such? Shame on any Democrats, or Republicans, who do not support our troops in Iraq. They need our support, and so does President George W. Bush. A little respect wouldn’t hurt either.

Flo Kellogg Fredericksburg, Texas

Some readers might think your inclusion of George W. Bush’s quote in the March 2007 Sunbeams — “Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties” — is a poke at the president. I did, until I realized that it’s actually a frightening commentary on the attitude of the “most powerful man in the world.” When the commander in chief is that ignorant, is it any wonder that four years after the invasion of Iraq we’re bogged down in a civil war?

Philip E. Nahrgang Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania

When Sun subscribers have finished reading the March 2007 issue, I think it would be a great idea if they would send it to their representative, or to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, or any elected official they choose. You never know what might spark a change, and we are in dire need of change right now.

Teri Koehler Wendell, Massachusetts

Poe Ballantine has done it again. His essay “Wide-Eyed in the Gaudy Shop” [March 2007] contains the single funniest sentence I’ve ever read in The Sun: “Often I wish I would die just so I could run down that dark tunnel with the white light at the end and kick God in the balls.” Knowing, through his writing, that he is a person of faith just makes it that much funnier.

Gemma Quinn Bolivia, North Carolina

Sitting in the parking lot of the local grocery store, in between dropping off my children and going to work, I read the February 2007 issue. When I looked up from the stories and poems, there was a bird sitting on my side mirror. It was just a little brown sparrow, hopping to some crazy beat, its feathers ruffled. It seemed to say, “See! I told you so.” Then it flew away. I was left alone with my tears, wondering where they have been all this time.

Flora Jestice East Barre, Vermont

Ellen Bass’s poem “The Human Line” [February 2007] captured the transformative power of giving birth. What really took my breath away, however, was her generous acknowledgment that some babies are born through surgery. With six words — “or slit with a steel scalpel” — Bass included my childbirth experience in her poem.

My first son was born in a frightening emergency cesarean section after doctors found that he was experiencing fetal distress. Though I was determined to have a natural childbirth with my second, he too was born by cesarean section after an arduous labor that lasted more than twenty-four hours. Bass’s poem brought fierce, unexpected tears to my eyes. I realized for the first time how much shame I still carry for not having had a “real” childbirth. With six simple words she lashed me to the human line.

Rachel Phipps Kennebunk, Maine

I wept as I read Ann Bauer’s essay “Father and Son” [February 2007]. I recently ended a relationship with someone who might meet the diagnostic criteria for several personality disorders, but each day I still struggle with what Bauer described so well: “Though it [autism] may prevent someone . . . from interacting freely with the world at large, if you are lucky enough to make contact with such a person — to catch a glimpse of the furtive, naked soul ill-clad in a human body — you never want to let go.” I’m still learning to put my own emotional well-being first. Sometimes letting go is the best choice.

Name Withheld

One of my co-workers showed me your January 2007 fundraising letter because it had some relevance to our own growing business of thirty years. I have to say that it is the best letter of its kind, out of hundreds that I have seen. I already have too much to read and too little time, but I am going to have to make time to read The Sun on a regular basis. The letter is that good.

Stick to your principles. Not only is it good for the soul; it is also good for business. The public is thirsty for integrity. You will thrive because of your essential honesty.

C.R. Lawn Waterville, Maine

I was introduced to The Sun three years ago by the members of my writers’ group. They spoke reverentially about the magazine, shyly admitting their hopes of getting published in it. They made it seem as if a subscription was tantamount to membership in a secret club.

I’d just gotten a contract for several children’s books, and I came to the meetings with a feeling of superiority, believing I was a real writer. During my time with the group, I saw through my arrogance and discovered authentic writing. These people brought achingly naked words to the table each week, work that scared and intimidated me. Here I was, hiding behind make-believe characters, while they laid their pain and sorrow out for everyone to see.

My book contract fell through after only one book was published. It is no longer in print, and my career as a writer effectively ended with it. I haven’t written much more than journal entries and grocery lists since then.

The Sun has become my lifeline. It reminds me of the time I spent in that writing group and pushes me to improve my own work.

Katrina Martin Davenport Concord, California

In April 2006 a disability forced me to quit work. With no money coming in, I had to cut expenses, including my subscription to The Sun.

When my disability claim was approved eight months later, the first thing I did with the back payment was to pay off my credit cards. The second was to buy a destitute friend a car. The third was to renew my subscription.

It feels good to be back.

Pat Shields Waynesville, Missouri
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