Issue 422 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


My husband and I had just decided not to renew (because we’re cutting expenses) when the October issue arrived, and we read the great interview with Wes Jackson [“Farmed Out,” by Fred Bahnson]. The next month my husband walked into the kitchen with the November issue and showed me the interview with Chip Berlet [“Brewing Up Trouble,” by David Barsamian]. “This is why we have to renew!” he said.

We just sent our renewal in.

Jan Lucas-Grimm Indianapolis, Indiana

I fell down laughing at Chip Berlet’s analysis of the Tea Party in David Barsamian’s interview “Brewing Up Trouble.” Let’s begin with the truth. The Tea Party started in opposition to New York Governor David Paterson’s asinine proposals for higher taxes on soda, snacks, chips, cigarettes, and so on. Known as the “obesity taxes,” they fanned the sparks already ignited by out-of-control spending in Washington, D.C., by both Presidents Obama and Bush. The protests surrounding these taxes were organized mostly on blogs, Facebook, and other social-networking sites and were led by students and libertarian organizations in February 2009.

The Tea Party’s members are a diverse group who range in income from the poor to the upper middle class. I do not see race, because we are all Americans, but if you must categorize people like animals, all racial groups are represented in its ranks.

Chip Berlet’s interpretation of the Tea Party’s politics is a little askew. Yes, the Tea Party wants smaller government. Yes, it wants spending restricted to Constitutional limits. But, no, its message does not all come down to “throw the bums out.” The recent midterm election proved the American people want checks and balances in their government. It proved the Tea Party has actually put people in office and not just thrown them out. The truth is the politics of most Tea Party members range from center left to center right, which is not where our government is.

Tea Party members also get their news from many different news sources besides Fox News. There are other channels on the TV, and there is something called the “Internet.” Berlet’s perspective is an extremely biased, left-of-center view of the Tea Party movement.

Jarett Chizick Burlington, Vermont

I am a Republican who voted for Obama because I believed we needed a change. But Congress is a beast that has been in Washington, D.C., too long and has forgotten its constituents. That is why I voted Republican again in November 2010. And I am not a member of the Tea Party. I am also not antigay, anti-feminist, antiabortion, or anti-immigrant. I agree with Chip Berlet that the Progressive movement, which could include both Republicans and Democrats, needs direction and an ideology to attract mainstream citizens.

Anne Holt Blanco, Texas

The interview with Chip Berlet cleared up some misinformation I have read on the Internet about “concentration camps” operated by the government and threats to U.S. sovereignty. What I read online was scary and overwhelming. It didn’t make any sense and was not substantiated by authoritative sources. Nevertheless this news was accepted by a member of my family who would have me sell my home, pack up, and run to an unspecified location, as long as it is away from here.

Barsamian’s interview is the first reasonable account I’ve read of where this nonsense all began. Damn the people who started this rock slide rolling. It frightens and befuddles the poor folks who believe this stuff, and it harms helpless people who get carried along in the tide.

Joan Morrison Columbus, Ohio

I think Chip Berlet underestimates the role the mainstream media have played in the rise of the Tea Party. Over the years left-wing movements have either gotten no attention from the media or have been denounced as out-of-touch extremists. By contrast, the first time the Tea Party organized a rally, it was headline news throughout the country, and angry protesters were “passionate Americans.”

Conservative activist David Horowitz writes, “In political warfare you do not fight just to prevail in an argument, but to destroy the enemy’s fighting ability.” Through control of the media, the Right has destroyed our fighting ability.

Nancy Dietrich Urbana, Illinois

I have always enjoyed Poe Ballantine’s writing, and his essay “Under the Moonflower Tree” [November 2010] is no exception. I have tremendous respect for his courageous ability to lay himself bare to readers. I hesitated to continue reading, however, when I came to this line: “She grows taut, resists, registers indignity, but she never says no.” I did keep reading and came to admire his fearless self-reflections, in particular his use of the word rape to describe his interactions with Dolores. It is the appropriate word for what happened. I was surprised and refreshed by his honesty until I read, “[Her lips] were always dry when I made love to her as a teenager.” How did rape become making love?

Tressi Albee Williams, Oregon

Poe Ballantine’s “Under the Moonflower Tree” captures, with profound exactness, the deep regret that courses through me when I think of some of the decisions I made when I was too young to be making them. I can’t name another piece of literature that so accurately details the lifelong emotional repercussions of adolescent behavior.

I was the young girl in a bad situation who learned how to cope. I was also the person who took what she wanted from those around her without considering the results of her actions. I still feel the regret on both sides of that story.

Elisabeth Seacott Birmingham, Alabama

I felt extremely uncomfortable reading Poe Ballantine’s “Under the Moonflower Tree.” Though still a teenager himself, Ballantine clearly takes advantage of a girl who is younger and more vulnerable than he is. I understand that writing the story may have provided him catharsis, but such confessions are better shared with close friends, writing groups, and therapists.

I’ve never been the victim of incest or rape, but there was a time in my life when I was young, impressionable, and in a lot of pain. Living in an environment that celebrated the objectification of women, I found myself pressured into saying yes when I didn’t know how to say no. Luckily I had the means to escape and heal. Dolores did not.

Meagan Elliott Portland, Oregon
Poe Ballantine responds:

I’m disappointed that Tressi Albee sees only two options: to characterize the entirety of my relationship with Dolores as “rape,” or to intimate that I am somehow sentimental over my abominable deed. In fact, I wrote the essay primarily as an apology. Maybe Meagan Elliott is right: I should’ve just told my therapist.

I was touched by Lee Strickland’s story of her unwed pregnancy [“Girl, Ruined,” November 2010]. I had a child in 1968, and the author’s experience and mine are strikingly similar. I, too, wondered for years whether my son was alive or dead. My first meeting with him left me with the same feeling of having been touched by the divine. I’d carried so much sorrow within me since his birth. Now, finally, I was able to grieve.

The fact that no one thought to acknowledge my loss astounds me. I am amazed that anyone can tell a pregnant woman who is about to give up a child that all will be well, and I am thankful that our culture has changed to allow more open adoptions. A woman who gives up an infant needs to know, like all mothers need to know, that her child is OK.

Marsha Lambrou Boise, Idaho

As a therapist of many years with a special appreciation for adolescents, I enjoyed the November issue’s focus on youth. A favorite quote of mine is this one by Joan Hess, from an old Sunbeams page: “Caron is fifteen, to put it mildly.”

Judy Ogden South Lake Tahoe, California

Lindley Rust’s November cover photo of the young woman picking her toenails moved me. It reminds me of what The Sun does best — present unvarnished reality in a way that helps us to see that truth really is beauty.

Cynthia Rich San Diego, California

Thanks for publishing Manuel Martinez’s short story “The Stew” [October 2010]. Many times I’ve thrown together a pot roast with venom on my tongue and murder in my heart, but damned if it doesn’t taste delicious at dinner.

Sheila Lindell Chicago, Illinois

Since reading the story “Telling Him,” by Craig Planting [October 2010], I cannot stop thinking about how hard it is for people to come out of the closet. Teenagers especially feel discriminated against. I am sixteen, and in my high school there have been five attempted suicides by gay students this semester. Homosexual teens feel not only out of place but loathed by those they once called their friends.

I have always strongly believed in gay rights, but I am beginning to realize that those rights will not come without acceptance. Only when homosexuals feel they don’t have to live their lives in secret — or kill themselves — to escape from ignorance and judgments will they have the rights they deserve.

Rhianna Helfman Half Moon Bay, California

I laughed while reading “Not Another Word,” by Gillian Kendall [July 2010]. Her search for a nonviolent way to handle ants crawling on her reminded me of a day I was walking an asphalt track with a friend at the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, California. A rain had brought worms to the surface, and my friend stopped to pick up and relocate them to the grass. I thought this odd at the time, but later I became more attuned to the environment, and I stopped killing any living thing, including spiders, mosquitoes, and wasps. I haven’t been stung or bitten since.

Wayne T. Dowdy Edgefield, South Carolina

Thank God I’m single again. Now I can read The Sun from cover to cover every month!

Suzanne Ruggles Westhampton, New York
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