Issue 383 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine

Correspondence

Kudos to The Sun and Arnie Cooper for the excellent interview with David Korten [“Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” September 2007]. Korten penetrates to the core of our self-destructive culture and offers a plausible plan for ameliorating and ultimately overcoming it. To a seventy-two-year-old who has been disillusioned and pessimistic since retirement, Korten brought real hope and reawakened my willingness to get going again.

B. Riesterer Marquette, Michigan

David Korten is right to say that the competitive dominator model permeates every level of American society. As a teacher, I can speak for its presence in the schools. From prekindergarten through college, our children are bombarded with high-stakes tests that supposedly will enable them to better compete in a global marketplace. Their brains are measured using benchmark assessments, end-of-grade tests, graduation exams, and a host of standardized tests to see if they are worthy of advancement, or if they should be relegated to the back burner. My job is to make sure I am “teaching to the test.”

Politicians and journalists argue that testing will make students work harder to get ahead. I think the real reason for testing may be to keep down as many students as possible and maintain the current system of domination, which treats the lower classes only as voracious consumers.

Aliyah Kai Stone Mountain, Georgia

Like David Korten I have believed for years that humans’ strongest behavioral predisposition is toward cooperation — which also gives us the longest-lasting contentment. Yes, we have a propensity for violence and competition, but I think it’s our cooperative impulse that has enabled us to survive — and thrive — as a species.

Let’s form our future societies as Korten urges, by placing a premium on cooperation rather than competition. Let’s value community, not commercialism; conservation, not consumption; caring and compassion, not command and control. And let’s spread the word that cooperation brings the greatest satisfaction. If enough of us wake up to the rewards of cooperative living, we might be able to pull off Korten’s “Great Turning” before it’s too late.

Russ Weis Johnson, Vermont

Theresa Williams’s short story “Trash” [September 2007] brought back some memories. The same year her fifteen-year-old North Carolina protagonist was silently idolizing actor Pete Duel, I was too, at the same age, on the other side of the Atlantic. That year, 1971, my world fell apart: my family moved from a bright, beautiful pine house we’d built from a kit in the English countryside near Oxford to a sad, gray-slate farmhouse in the middle of rainy Wales. I lost all my friends and struggled in the Welsh-speaking school.

The one bright hour in my week was watching the American TV show Alias Smith and Jones, costarring Pete Duel. Then, on New Year’s Day, I heard on the radio that Duel had killed himself. “Trash” brought back my teenage heartbreak and misery and made me marvel at the ways we are connected to each other, even across the globe, even when we feel most alone.

Maggie Rowe Newark, Delaware

As a woman who is just beginning the process of trying to conceive, though I lost all of one ovary and part of the other when I was fifteen years old, I was deeply touched by Alex Mindt’s story, “In the Near Dark” [June 2007]. Although I have not had the tragic experience of a miscarriage, I feel that I can, in some small way, relate to the anonymous reader who shared her reaction to the story in the September 2007 Correspondence, describing the fear and uncertainty that it caused her. Although I, too, felt sad after reading the story, I was also inspired by the passion with which the husband insisted that the medical professionals and his wife trust his intuition about their unborn child. I was reminded of the importance of staying in touch with what is happening in my own body and not blindly following what the “experts” say.

It seems to me that making the decision to terminate a pregnancy for any reason would be heartbreaking, and that the question “what if” would always linger, whether that reader had read Mindt’s story or not.

Heart Song Fowler Foxworth Wilmington, North Carolina

I enjoyed reading Gillian Kendall’s interview with Joan Ogden [“How Many Americans Does It Take to Screw In a Light Bulb?” August 2007]. One subject that wasn’t discussed was plug-in electric cars. Plugging a hybrid automobile into the electric grid to charge the battery would mean filling up the gas tank four times per year instead of twelve, on average. Yet you currently cannot buy a plug-in electric vehicle from any major auto manufacturer. Why not?

For one, gas taxes pay for our roads. Also, electric cars wouldn’t be as profitable in the long run for manufacturers: electric motors and components are much more reliable, simpler, and cheaper to maintain; the only substantial part to replace on a regular basis would be the battery. But my guess is that the real opposition to plug-in electric vehicles comes from the oil industry. Electric vehicles would cut heavily into their profits. And once gasoline became less of a day-to-day necessity, the oil industry would have less political clout, which would mean fewer subsidies and tax breaks. So the oil industry, the government, and the automakers work together to keep electric vehicles off the market. Consumer be damned.

Dave Wesely Address Withheld

I laughed as I read, and then reread, Mark Wisniewski’s too-short story “Your Life’s Stakes” [August 2007]. It is the funniest thing I have come across in a long time.

At fifty-seven I can heartily appreciate the author’s horse-race analogy for the breaking down of the body. At twenty-five or thirty or even forty, I wouldn’t have had such a belly laugh as I did today. My cat looked at me as if I had gone over the edge.

Doug Myler Blue Springs, Missouri

It delights me to offer The Sun in the waiting room of my private therapy practice. It isn’t the most popular magazine with my clients, but every now and then, as I open my office door, one will look up, disappointed, and I’ll know they’d rather spend a little more time with The Sun than with me.

Guy Burstein Portland, Oregon

I was contemplating suicide when my August 2007 copy of The Sun came, and I read the essay “Confinement” by Dorian Gossy. I was so moved by her story of fighting cancer and dealing with the horrors of chemotherapy that I burst into tears. I decided if she could con­tinue on with her life in the state she was in, so could I.

Name Withheld

Near the end of his essay “Bang, Bang, in a Boy Voice” [July 2007] Akhim Yuseff Cabey wonders why he never committed a violent crime. Yet earlier in the piece he describes unleashing his fists into the face of a mentally ill woman, and other instances in which he pounded people’s faces and bodies. Perhaps Cabey is writing facetiously, hoping we are alert enough to pick up on the inconsistencies in his account. Or perhaps he is deceiving himself.

Violence does not require a pistol. It does not have to result in death. Punching, striking, slapping, and choking are all violent acts. Even words alone can be violent, and can cause tremendous pain. Cabey may be trying to offer himself some type of absolution, but his words reveal his violent ways.

Judith A. Conte Anchorage, Alaska
Akhim Yuseff Cabey responds:

The New York City I lived in during the 1980s didn’t allow for such high-minded excavations of the various forms and meanings of “violence.” I simply understood from firsthand experience that giving someone a bloody nose was intrinsically less evil than stabbing or shooting or raping someone. Fistfights do not ruin people’s lives. In “Bang, Bang, in a Boy Voice,” I try to explain that my powers of restraint and self-discipline had been pushed to their limits. Had they been tested much further, I might have found myself sitting on a train prepared to blow someone’s head off because he asked me for five dollars. I am lucky. I was spared the sort of truly traumatic events that lead to such total destruction of the self and, inevitably, the destruction of others.

Before I came to prison, I was a photographer for twenty-five years, and I really miss it. The sunset Thursday night was awe inspiring, but I could capture it only in my memory. (How I wish I could paint or draw!)

I appreciate the work of other photographers more than ever here in prison, and I leaf through dozens of magazines each month, looking for the best, wondering how the photographer created each image. The Sun uses photographs better than most publications. After staring at the cover for what seems like hours, I start turning pages to see whose work I will enjoy in that issue.

I miss the feel of my Nikon F3 HP in my hands.

Big Mo 2 Corcoran, California
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