Having just read Sparrow’s political diatribe “Please Don’t Vote for Me” [November 2012], I am disturbed by what I see as a distasteful trend in The Sun. The first issues I read in 2008 were enthralling. The fiction, interviews, and essays grabbed my attention, stimulated my imagination, and prompted me to begin a creative-writing career. Now I find the magazine filled with political rants, biased opinions, and divisive rhetoric. What does this accomplish but to drive a wedge between open-minded thinkers on the Right and Left? How can we expect our leaders to reach across the aisle when authors like Sparrow fling invectives?

Judith Grout
Phoenix, Arizona

“Please Don’t Vote for Me” educated me on the issues our country faces this election season in a way that two years of laughable hyperbole, embarrassing rhetoric, and fifteen-second sound bites couldn’t.

With each passing year I feel a growing apathy toward the whole political process. Sparrow’s view of the issues is refreshing, insightful, and humorous. Unlike the candidates, with their deceptively squeaky-clean images and fill-in-the-blanks speeches, Sparrow speaks the uncensored truth with a naked honesty that would make him ill fitted for the Oval Office. As he requests, I will not vote for him.

Kathy Kelly
Ridgefield, Connecticut

For years I’ve read Sparrow’s contributions to The Sun with the hope that this time I’ll finally get his humor. “Please Don’t Vote for Me” is so funny that I actually laughed out loud several times. I thank God for the gift of his wit in these politically terrifying times.

I must apologize in advance for ruining Sparrow’s consistent record of receiving not a single vote each year, because on Election Day I’m writing him in. I’ve finally found a candidate who reflects my own values and sensibilities.

Harvey Rabichow
Anthem, Arizona

Thank you, Sparrow, for the first smile and breath of hope I’ve had regarding this election. Whether or not you receive any votes, your genuine genius and great heart win every time.

Sharon Rose Smith
Belchertown, Massachusetts

Where the heck is Sy Safransky’s Notebook? I miss his accounts of his frustrated attempts to make love with his dear wife and his stories of his beloved cat. Don’t tell me he is busy writing a book. We are all busy. After all, the inane thoughts he contributes should not tax him too much. I like to read inane thoughts. They make me feel less inane.

Bill Lenters
Rockford, Illinois

Karen Vogel’s essay “The First Year” [October 2012] just about made me cry. The scene where her friend tells her that “there must not be anything like being a mother” would have meant nothing to me seven months ago, before I became a mother myself. I live in Spain, an ocean away from my own mother, and only after becoming a parent did I even begin to understand how my mom must feel when she’s standing in her kitchen, talking on the phone with me, and how difficult it has been for her to see her daughter move so far away.

Dusty Gammons
Madrid
Spain

Recently I was given an e-reader as a gift, and I have been struggling to find books I’d like to download to it. Yesterday I read “It’s Hard to Know What You Need,” by Linda McCullough Moore [October 2012]. I was so moved by her short story that I downloaded two of her books. I can’t wait to get started.

The only other book on my e-reader is “Mink River,” by Brian Doyle, another writer to whom I was introduced by The Sun. Thank you for making my reading experience broader and better than I thought possible.

Elizabeth Menser
Sugarloaf Shores, Florida

I found Tracy Frisch’s interview with Joel Salatin [“Sowing Dissent,” October 2012] disturbing. There is no such thing as “humane killing.” How can anyone call themselves “humane” when they raise animals for the purpose of murdering them to satisfy their palate? To justify it by stating that the animals are happier during their life is nothing but a perversion.

Adele Marshall
Chino Valley, Arizona

I am saddened to see The Sun perpetuate the cruel myth of “happy” food animals. Joel Salatin asks whether animals are more special than carrots. Perhaps not, but we can see animals’ suffering, if we choose to look. Carrots do not cry out when sliced into or try to run away when they hear the wailing of a fellow creature being slaughtered.

If people did not eat farm animals, Salatin claims, cows and chickens and pigs would soon overpopulate the earth. Not true. Food animals would no longer be bred, as most are now by forced artificial insemination. (Some see this as rape; I do.)

“Humans are arguably the most important species on the planet,” Salatin says. Indeed arguable. Here is the arrogance that is slowly destroying the natural world.

The excellent documentary Forks over Knives explains how all animal products, no matter how the animals are raised, are detrimental to our health.

Let’s not keep fooling ourselves while food animals endlessly suffer.

Joanne Ehret
Belchertown, Massachusetts

Isaac Bashevis Singer [“The Slaughterer,” Dog-Eared Page, October 2012] and other vegetarians are rebelling against the Creator, who made this world a savage place where some creatures must devour others. As Joel Salatin remarks, “All life springs from the sacrifice of something living.”

Allen P. Chase
Roy, Washington

As a small farmer I’ve been inspired by Joel Salatin’s writings and thoughts, but I’m confused by his assertion that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is “not fond of small farmers.” In my experience the USDA is very supportive of small farmers. In fact, my entire career as an organic vegetable grower is due in part to the USDA and other government entities.

The land I currently run my business on was saved from development by the state of Rhode Island and leased to a nonprofit that received USDA grants to build the irrigation systems, access roads (arranged to protect wetlands), deer fencing, greenhouses, and outbuildings for eight small organic farms.

Over the past five years my business has grown from my own hard work and innovation in the market, but it has also benefited from government loans, tax breaks, and conservation programs. I have applied for a USDA beginning-farmer loan so I can stop leasing and purchase my own farm in Connecticut. No bank would talk to me while my sales are below two hundred thousand dollars annually.

Salatin mentions impediments to entering the marketplace that keep “literally thousands of food entrepreneurs” from realizing their dreams. But the U.S. government has been one of my principal allies.

John Kenny
North Scituate, Rhode Island

Joel Salatin responds:

To Adele Marshall and Joanne Ehret: Jesus and Mohammed both enjoyed eating meat. The most inhumane perspective is one that denies the life-death-decay-regeneration cycle. Everything is constantly eating and being eaten.

The reason all antiquity diets revolved around seafood, meat, and milk is because those were the only nutrient-dense foods that were available without soil-destroying and energy-consumptive tillage. Tillage to grow grains and beans destroys far more animals than eating domestic livestock. For great reading, try The Vegetarian Myth and Meat: A Benign Extravaganza.

The notion that we have evolved beyond meat eating does not indicate evolution to a heightened spiritual and intellectual attainment, but rather a profound devolution into ignorance of ecology and the human relationship with our environment.

To John Kenny: Anyone who thinks the overall agenda of the USDA promotes small, independent farms has not been keeping up with its shenanigans. It’s like saying the Iraq War was justified because it actually helped a few hundred Iraqis. You’re willing to assume that the tidbits thrown your way compensate for all the evil programs. I argue that if the USDA did not give such special treatment to bad guys like agricultural giant Monsanto, we good guys wouldn’t need any help.

I want to thank Jennifer Mason-Black for shedding light on the agonizing experience of losing a sibling at a young age. Her short story “She Walked Out the Door” [August 2012] reminded me that my brother would have been thirty years old this week. Jeremy died from brain cancer when he was twelve and I was seven.

I think about my brother every day, especially while celebrating milestones he didn’t live long enough to reach. Like Mason-Black’s protagonist does in regard to her dead sister, I try to succeed at the things my brother did not get to do.

Maryanne Berger
Tacoma, Washington

Few pieces of fiction have struck me as hard as “She Walked out the Door.” Jennifer Mason-Black skillfully creates a character by outlining the spaces where she isn’t — a realistic parallel to the mourning process itself. Those left behind have no choice but to go on despite the void. Her story reminds us of the fragility of the human condition.

Danielle Gaillard-Picher
Lambesc
France