Bruce Perry mentions fight and flight as possible responses to trauma [“The Long Shadow,” interview by Jeanne Supin, November 2016]. Neither was possible when I suffered sexual abuse as a child. So I learned a third response: to freeze inside and wait for the violence to be over. I taught myself not to cry or react.
Despite years of therapy, I lived on high alert as an adult while pretending everything was fine. It took an extraordinary therapist and two marvelous healers to help me begin to unfreeze and allow the trauma in my eighty-year-old mind, body, and spirit to emerge. The body work released the trauma and the therapy helped find the words and feelings I had so long shut away.
I’ve been a therapist since 1982. My adult clients almost invariably are dealing with the residue of some traumatic event, usually from long ago. People don’t realize that their personalities and beliefs are affected by neglect or abuse they experienced as children. These ghosts travel with them through life unless they seek help to exorcise them. I am grateful to Bruce Perry for his clear exposition of what it takes to heal man’s inhumanity to man.
After reading Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves, a novel about the hanging of Native Americans for a crime they did not commit, my book group began discussing diabetes, alcoholism, and suicide among Native Americans. Your interview with Bruce Perry provided insight into the trauma of indigenous populations and gave us hope that recovering their languages and cultural traditions can counter the long-term consequences of cultural genocide.
Bruce Perry has frequently been the keynote speaker at a yearly symposium for the child-welfare system here in New Mexico. He has good suggestions about caring for traumatized children who have been taken away from their parents due to abuse, neglect, and substance abuse. I know from personal experience that his ideas work, but I haven’t seen them widely put into practice. It’s no wonder the care of foster children in New Mexico is among the worst in the U.S.
Your interviews have gone downhill. Moreover, most of the stories in the November 2016 issue were bummers. Life is hard, but so what? Not everyone who lives with waterbugs does nothing about it. The losers and suicidal individuals in your magazine have few prospects other than existing from day to day. I’m sure writers send you upbeat stories on how to get by without sinking into the cesspool of suffering. Doesn’t anyone fight back and win?
Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan [“An Unlikely Friendship,” interview by Judith Hertog, October 2016] bring to mind Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr., particularly their courage to move beyond anger and fear. I’ve subscribed to The Sun for more than a decade, and this interview was the best I’ve read. Thank you for reminding us how to live with dignity and an open heart.
It’s inspiring to see two men who could easily be mortal enemies come to an understanding through shared grief and shed the misunderstandings and fears of their respective communities. I think of the quote by Abraham Lincoln in your October 2016 Sunbeams: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
My parents believed that only through cooperation among all people would there be peace. My father spent the last twenty-five years of his life advancing human rights the world over. In 1967, at the end of the Six-Day War in which Israel defeated a coalition of its Arab neighbors, I called him to share my elation. My father — who believed if you did not know both sides of a story you knew less than half — said, “Now is the time for Israel to make peace for both populations. If they cannot, the situation will only worsen, and tensions will grow beyond either side’s ability to control.”
I think this has come to pass. A peaceful future for Israel and Palestine is hard to imagine.
It is rare for the U.S. media to cover peaceful efforts to oppose the occupation of Palestine. It is even more unusual to learn of joint efforts by Israeli and Palestinian individuals and organizations who persevere despite — or, as the interview highlights, as a result of — personal and historical trauma. Thank you for exploring this topic of global importance.
I appreciate the message that Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan bring: that we each have our own narrative, and changing it can change the world. Part of my narrative is that I am Jewish by blood and have taught school in Lebanon. I would have been moved by this interview even if I had never seen the effect the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has had on Beirut and the surrounding cities. Life delivers difficult blows to us all, but Aramin and Elhanan — like so many others in the region — live with their feet to the fire every day. May we all have their courage.
The interview with Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan was one of the best you’ve printed, though I suspect it will be met with criticism and hostility. The U.S. is remarkably uninformed about its enormous role in this human-rights tragedy. Unfortunately, with President Obama committing an unprecedented $38 billion in military aid to Israel through 2028, there is no end in sight to our complicity.
Hats off to Judith Hertog for bringing Bassam Aramin and Rami Elhanan to Sun readers. Both intelligently explore the narratives of Jews and Palestinians, but Hertog does these men and her readers a disservice in her introduction, where the truth of Israeli history is hidden behind a haze of distorted myth.
Most damaging is Hertog’s statement that the fighting of 1948 “forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to abandon their homes and become refugees; the Israeli army later razed most of their villages.” The truth is that the armed conflict between 1947 and 1949 was used to carry out ethnic cleansing that had been planned by the Zionist leadership as far back as the 1930s. Before a single Arab soldier stepped foot into Palestine in 1948, Jewish forces had been entering villages and expelling the inhabitants.
Yes, we must have compassion for the Jews of Israel, but helping them hide from their own history destroys their hope for a decent future. The original settlers of modern Israel, refugees themselves, did not know that they were being recruited into a colonial project that has turned their dream of a safe haven into today’s nightmare.
Judith Hertog responds:
I’m touched by the positive comments. When the editors asked me to include a short summary of the conflict in my introduction, I was hesitant. Over a hundred years of history cannot be condensed into a few paragraphs without simplifications and omissions, and I wanted to avoid what Elhanan calls “the dark maze of who did what to whom and who started what.” I have tried my best to present as balanced an overview as I could in four short paragraphs, but I hope that nobody relies on my text to draw any conclusion about the conflict. There are countless books and documentaries that provide a detailed understanding of history, and I urge everyone to learn more. I believe that the answer to extremism is to learn about the complexity of history and society and to acknowledge multiple points of view.
Sparrow’s colorful campaign journal [“Embarrassed to Be an American,” October 2016] provides us with much-needed levity as we endure this perplexing barrage of election-year mindlessness. I’m gathering “Sparrowisms” and sharing them wherever I go.
After many years as a subscriber, I have “matured” with Sparrow: this Republican finally agrees with him. In his sixth presidential campaign, he expressed his views on the issues very well.
Re: “Embarrassed to Be an American: A Diary of My Presidential Campaign.” God, I love Sparrow.
Linda McCullough Moore’s short story “Whatever Day It Is” [October 2016] reminded me why I have read every issue of The Sun for more than thirty years. I’m grateful to everyone who helps make the magazine a reality.
Debbie Urbanski writes like the second coming of Kurt Vonnegut. In fact, if I hadn’t gone back to check the byline, I would’ve sworn that “When They Came to Us” [August 2016] was a newly discovered Vonnegut story.
As a corrections deputy, I came across a copy of your magazine while doing a “shakedown” — a search of an inmate’s property and living space. The inmate had exceeded the limit of literature allowed, so I confiscated The Sun. I also read it and have been hooked ever since.
What a journey The Sun and I have shared over fifteen years. Your magazine has tested my capacity for sorrow, my compassion, and, most of all, my ability to love.
After fourteen years of incarceration I was released into an uncertain future. With a steady heart, and strengthened by the human spirit found in almost every issue of your magazine, I looked to become, as Joseph Campbell would say, the hero of my own story. Throughout the twenty-four months — and twenty-four issues — since my reentry into society, one thing has remained immutable: my appreciation for The Sun’s authentic content.