Issue 509 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


I’ve been a physician since 1987 and have a different perspective than Andrew Coates [“The End of Insurance?” interview by Tracy Frisch, March 2018] on what is wrong with American healthcare.

It’s an open secret that medical care doesn’t make a large impact in health outcomes. The so-called prevention you get at a doctor’s office if you have insurance — mammograms, colonoscopies, etc. — barely makes a dent in mortality. More people are diagnosed with diseases, but little benefit in survival is achieved. Medications for depression, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and so on also have small margins of benefit. Lifestyle changes can actually make people healthier: unprocessed organic food, better sleep, walkable communities.

As long as technological advances put more and more unaffordable treatments in our toolkit, inequality in access will continue to grow. Most Americans are already getting too much medical “care,” much of it useless and even harmful. Single-payer would help to even the playing field and free up the money now being used to pay administrators to deny treatments, but the priority should be addressing the sources of our ill health: toxic food and environment, harmful medical interventions, racism, and economic inequality.

Myrto Ashe San Rafael, California

By the time I reached the conclusion of Mick Cochrane’s essay “Last Lecture” [March 2018], I was weeping. I have been in a difficult period in my life, and Cochrane’s encouragement to repeat his sister Sue’s words — “I am so happy to be alive” and “I’m glad you’re here” — is helping me focus on what is important.

I took his advice to visit Sue’s website, where I discovered that Cochrane also wrote the poem “Stage Four,” which appeared in your December 2017 issue. I want to thank him and his sister for the beauty and vulnerability of their writing, and for transforming their difficulties into encouragement and love.

Carol Cowan Columbia, Tennessee

Today I was feeling hopeless and wondering if the members of Congress would ever grow up and do their job — serving the people of this country — instead of looking out for their careers. I wondered if, at the age of sixty-four, I had lived long enough and it was time to find a kind and gentle way to check out. The sad stories in the “Upstairs” Readers Write [March 2018] added to my dark thoughts.

Then I turned the page to Sparrow’s essay “Goodbye, Patriarchy!” I read it twice. When I reached the end for the second time, I smiled at my dog, who was sitting across from me at the kitchen table and sniffing for crumbs. She looked up, seeming hopeful. I felt a little hopeful myself.

LouAnne Johnson Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

I enjoyed Megan Wildhood’s interview with Chuck Collins [“Separate and Unequal,” February 2018]. Though discipline, good judgment, and hard work can make people wealthy, most who demonstrate these behaviors don’t get rich: teachers, janitors, laborers, pizza makers, firefighters, and almost everyone else.

Wealthy people owe much of their success to things that are beyond their control, like inherited circumstances; economic, political, and cultural conditions; the collective work of others past and present; good health; and so on. And the more wealth one accumulates, the more this holds true.

The concept of a self-made man is a fallacy. Wealthy people should be grateful and happily pay more in taxes to the country that gave them their chance.

Matt Sarconi Calistoga, California

After spending a Sunday in the emergency room because my vision had suddenly clouded over, I went home with instructions not to read anything for the rest of the day. But the February 2018 issue of The Sun was beckoning. When I saw Poe Ballantine’s essay “A Short-Lived Ecstasy Bordering on Madness” in the Contents, I cheated. A patch over one eye and reading glasses propped on my face, I managed to read his hilarious essay while squirting drops into my eye between paragraphs. I laughed until the tears started filling my eye patch. This may not have helped my vision, but it sure lifted my spirits.

Christine Clayworth Santa Cruz, California

Duane Bridger’s photo of three children laughing over a game of Monopoly [February 2018] is magnificent. Their wholly unselfconscious mirth — their innocent, insouciant joy — is exquisitely captured in one frame.

S. Kay Murphy Calimesa, California

Dan Musgrave’s essay “Eclipse” was poignant [January 2018]. I love the spin of the author’s dog changing his girlfriend’s heart — so sweet. In addition to being a pet owner for more than seventy years, I was a small-animal veterinarian for almost fifty. I’ve had similar struggles at the end of my pets’ lives, and I’ve shared those moments with owners whose pets I served. I found joy in my practice mostly by being a part of the human-animal bond.

Joe Yrisarri Denver, Colorado

I’ve never been as impressed with a Readers Write as I was with Doy Daniels’s entry in your January 2018 issue [“Bad Habits”]. What courage Daniels demonstrates, as a Southern pastor, by candidly revealing his professional and public hypocrisy. Although he pragmatically considers how he may be perceived by his congregation, he personifies Jesus’s words in Luke 6:42: “Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw that is in your brother’s eye.” I feel humbled by his honesty.

Ronald L. Robertson Indianapolis, Indiana

In her letter Lisa Doser [Correspondence, January 2018] empathized with Paul Mandelbaum’s regret at not having been with his mother the moment she died [“We Are All Children Here,” October 2017]. I feel I must reach out to them both. I once dated a man who took care of his dying grandfather. This boyfriend beat himself up over the fact that his grandfather died while he (my boyfriend) was out drinking with friends. He talked of it often in a drunken stupor, saying, “If only I’d been there, he wouldn’t have died.” But those who love us often linger because we are with them; they don’t want to disappoint us by leaving. Neither Doser nor Mandelbaum need to be forgiven. Their loved ones simply waited until they left the room to leave this world.

Anita Biers Washington, Pennsylvania

After seeing yet another person complaining about your content having a political bent, I renewed my subscription for two years. Now the January 2018 issue has even more complaints. It’s a shame that the us-versus-them mentality in U.S. politics has put creative writing in the crosshairs.

Do I agree with everything I read in The Sun? No, but it opens a door to other perspectives. Am I supposed to tell someone to write only things that make me comfortable? It’s laughable to cancel because one or two issues cause you to think about someone else’s point of view.

Rob Christie Phoenix, Arizona

The December 2017 “One Nation, Indivisible” includes a quote by George Wald about musician Phil Ochs’s song “I’m Not Marching Anymore.” Wald says that not marching is “a mistake. You have to keep marching. . . . A revolution that stops is lost.”

But Wald is mistaken as to what Ochs’s song is about. Ochs was not referring to marching for social change, but rather to marching as a soldier to war.

Alan Ransenberg Portland, Oregon

Thank you for publishing Mark Leviton’s interview with William Richards about the positive potential of psychedelic substances [“From Here to Eternity,” November 2017]. Psychedelics don’t just have great value in therapy. Properly used, they can also aid in the treatment of drug addiction. My daughter was addicted to heroin and methamphetamine and living on the streets. She took ayahuasca, a psychedelic used in religious ceremonies in Brazil. “I know now that God is real, and inside me,” she said after taking it, “and so I know there is hope, even for me.”

In a government-sponsored research project, she also ingested ibogaine, which removed her cravings for opioids for long enough that she was able to begin a path to recovery.

After living under bridges and eating out of dumpsters, my daughter has now been sober for ten years, is raising two children, and is working in the field of addiction treatment. For us, these substances were a godsend. They are part of the solution to addiction, not part of the problem.

Susan Thesenga Madison, Virginia
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