Chuck Collins speaks of “a democratic capitalism where the needs of communities, nature, workers, consumers, and owners of capital are all taken into account” [“Separate and Unequal,” interview by Megan Wildhood, February 2018]. I am reminded of Arnie Cooper’s September 2004 interview with Robert Hinkley [“Twenty-Eight Words That Could Change the World”], in which Hinkley suggests we change corporate law to say the duty of directors is to make money for shareholders, “but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, public health and safety, dignity of employees, and the welfare of the communities in which the company operates.” These gentlemen both have the right idea. I wonder if we’ll ever take their advice.
Megan Wildhood’s interview with Chuck Collins was life changing. We immediately decided to adjust our will. Rather than leaving our estate to nieces and nephews, we’re giving it to a nonprofit organization.
Although Chuck Collins is right that we need to reduce the economic inequity in this country, his conclusion that all whites have “white privilege” ignores the truth of too many lives, including mine.
I grew up poor with no financial literacy, no money for college, and no help buying a house. I quickly learned this: if you’re poor and people treat you like you don’t matter, being white doesn’t provide any kind of benefit. I never caught up with my peers after college because I had so much student-loan debt; it was as though I had to pay off a mortgage before I could think about saving. When my dad died, I had to pay his debts.
During the last election, in which I was a Hillary Clinton supporter, I told a friend that I wished the Democrats would include poor and disenfranchised whites in their outreach. The friend, a privileged white woman, said, “There is no such thing as a disenfranchised white person.”
Sadly, as long as people refuse to see that “white privilege” is not universal, many white Democrats like me will feel increasingly abandoned by our party and marginalized by those who do indeed have white (and other) privilege.
Chuck Collins responds:
The term “white privilege” sounds insensitive to the pain, struggles, and experiences of many people who have little in the bank to show for their white-skin advantage. After four decades of wage stagnation for half of all Americans, including millions of white people, white privilege is a tricky topic. And it doesn’t help when the messenger is a privileged white male. We need to listen to one another’s stories, so that we don’t make sweeping statements that ignore someone’s truth.
That said, the multi-generational history of white advantage in building wealth — and in almost every other aspect of our lives — is part of our national DNA. The solution is to build an economy that works for everyone and lifts up those left behind in this era of extreme inequality. But we also need to face the truth that systematic racism toward First Nations and African people is the U.S.’s “original sin” — and the overarching narrative of our national identity.
I.F. Stone’s “Izzy” [Dog-Eared Page, February 2018] reminded me of when my friends and I would huddle around a copy of his newsletter every week in college. It was one of our only trustworthy sources of information, and we thought of Stone as someone like us: marginalized and radically independent.
Usually we were too poor to buy a subscription, but with the permission of the woman who ran the candy counter, we would borrow a copy for a day and hold public readings. These were not terribly popular at our out-of-the-way college, but they were the sparkplug for the antiwar movement in that area. We were jeered for our lack of courage, inability to face killing people, and hippie behavior. But we weren’t hippies. We were I.F. Stone wannabes, and a number of us made our careers in journalism as a result.
The astonishing thing is how little has changed in fifty years. We find ourselves with the same duplicitous government, police repression, special-prosecutor hearings, and crackdowns on marijuana. Are there any other I.F. Stones out there? If so, we could use you.
I.F. Stone was a one-man show: investigator, writer, publisher, and distributor. In constant motion, he would sweep into our bookshop on Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., every Saturday morning with an armload of his I.F. Stone’s Weekly newsletters. With a cursory greeting he would grab the remainder of the previous week’s issues next to the cash register and replace them with the latest edition. Then he was out the door and on to his next stop.
His July 1963 essay “Izzy” reminded me of my college experience as a student-bookstore clerk in a pre-Internet age when a “guerrilla warrior,” as Stone described himself, “could distill meaning, truth, and even beauty from the swiftly flowing debris of the week’s news.”
Stone celebrated our freedom of fundamental dissent, and he was proud that in ten years he had attracted twenty thousand readers. Today a crafty headline, catchy meme, or cute photo caption can lure a hundred thousand “likes” in an afternoon.
We would be a better nation with less cable-TV hypnosis and more time spent on Stone’s battlefield of ideas, where warriors debate rather than set out to discredit their opponents.
There is an order in which I read your magazine: Contributors, Correspondence, Readers Write, short stories, poetry, the interview, and finally Sunbeams. But in your February 2018 issue I got stuck on Mathias Nelson’s contributor’s note and had to read his poem “The People I Work with Don’t Talk about Trump” first. His words struck me as absolute truth. I don’t even like poetry, but I’m buying his book.
Geoff Trowbridge can love his home state of Tennessee all he wants [Correspondence, February 2018], but he should know that his neighbors’ “radically different viewpoints” have ruinous consequences for the lives of many.
Every time I read a letter chastising The Sun for being too partisan, I feel moved to defend the magazine’s editorial choices. What kind of craziness is it to call on Sun readers to open our hearts to the ignorance and hatred promoted by Donald Trump and his supporters?
The Sun brims with compassion for humanity, but it also tries to shed light on ideas that might bring us out of our confusion. The writing you’ve published this past year is consistent with that mission.
How many subscribers has The Sun actually lost due to its “unfair” treatment of Donald Trump? Where was the outrage when The Sun regularly disparaged George W. Bush well into Barack Obama’s time in office? If anything, The Sun has let Trump off easy. Anyone defending him in your pages is just trying to justify their horrible decision to vote for him.
Due to a proofreading error, the print version of our March 2018 interview with physician Andrew Coates [“The End of Insurance?”] left readers hanging: the last word was missing.
The word was “take.”
We are embarrassed by the mistake and apologize to our readers, to interviewer Tracy Frisch, and to Dr. Coates. The full text of the final question and answer is below.
Frisch: What are the chances that the [single-payer healthcare] system you envision will be enacted here?
Coates: I think the profound contradictions of the current system make it more likely: We have the contradiction that healthcare is so essential and yet so undignified in its delivery, with money always the underlying issue. Then there’s the contradiction that we’re paying so much more for healthcare compared with other nations but getting such inferior results. So everyone involved in the system gets progressively more frustrated and ground down. Yet we all know it doesn’t have to be this way.
I’m optimistic. Of all of the social reforms that could transform the country, single-payer seems to me the most likely to happen. Still, we don’t have a mass movement of millions of people pushing for this, and that is what it will take.