Issue 516 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


I was stopped short by Rabbi Rachel Timoner’s statements about the state of Israel [“The Holiness Hidden within the World,” interview by Laura Esther Wolfson, October 2018].

Timoner speaks about Jewish self-determination, but Zionism, an ethnic nationalist movement with roots in the nineteenth century, has produced a deeply troubled Israeli society that is increasingly isolated from the world. She claims Israel is not a colonialist project because Jews have returned to where we are “from.” Even if this were historically accurate, it would not give us license to dispossess an indigenous population.

Timoner believes in having a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian one, but Israel has never intended to allow a sovereign Palestinian state on its borders. The sham of negotiating a two-state solution has allowed Israel to continue to pursue its colonial settler project. As a Jew I share Timoner’s desire for a just and democratic Israel, but that will require letting go of the idea of a Jewish state.

Mark Braverman Portland, Oregon
Rabbi Rachel Timoner responds:

It may seem simple from here, but the conflict is much more complex up close. Spend time in Israel and Palestine, and you will find that both countries are full of refugees and the children of refugees seeking a safe place to be. I will never defend Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu or the human-rights abuses of the Israeli government, but if you believe that the Palestinian people deserve a home, how can you deny the Jewish people a home as well?

I am angry about the horrific injustices our country continues to perpetrate against its most vulnerable citizens and native peoples. But after reading your September 2018 issue — with Judith Hertog’s interview with Cornel West [“Prisoner of Hope”], Tony Hoagland’s essay “The Cure for Racism Is Cancer,” and the excerpt from Barack Obama’s speech [“Where We Start”] — I am also grateful to you for helping me to stay awake, and for pushing me to take responsibility for my thoughts and deeds.

Josephine Jackson Jacksonville, Florida

I retired a few years ago, after almost four decades as a nurse. I have worked with seasoned nurses who said, “You have to fall in love with these people if you’re going to survive.” I have also been a critically ill patient. In one hospital the night nurse, a Cuban refugee, stroked my head and whispered, “Don’t worry. You will walk again. I promise.”

Hospitals, where love is regularly shown, are the best places to acknowledge our common humanity. What a relief to fall into the arms of a caregiver. What a gift to reach across your stretcher and hold hands with another patient. This truth is beautifully expressed in Tony Hoagland’s “The Cure for Racism Is Cancer.”

Patricia C. O’Hara New Mexico

Tony Hoagland’s essay “The Cure for Racism Is Cancer” is a wise examination of the possibilities for empathy and appreciation of our shared humanity. Not only does Hoagland call out to society as a whole, but his essay is particularly revealing for those, like myself, who work in healthcare and wonder how they are perceived by patients.

The people Hoagland talks about are not the doctors. Nor does he discuss cutting-edge technology. His focus is on the other patients, their families, and the hospital staff and orderlies. He commends these caregivers for exhibiting compassion toward their patients, and he calls for them to be valued and fairly paid. I hope hospital administrators and other healthcare professionals read the essay and take it to heart.

David Kaufman Santa Fe, New Mexico

I was drawn to Tony Hoagland’s essay “The Cure for Racism Is Cancer” — not because of racism but because of cancer. His experiences at the clinic mirror my own. Whenever I go back to the doctor to check if the cancer has returned, I feel like I’m in another world. I go home with reassurances that I’m still in remission, but cancer is a club I cannot resign from: a club of strangers who share the most intimate moments of their lives; a club free of gender, class, and race. Hoagland’s essay was a reminder of our common humanity.

Viki Shilaos Corvallis, Oregon

I am baffled by the way anger continually gets a bad rap within the so-called spiritual community. Zen monk Norman Fischer lists anger as one of the “negative emotions that self-centeredness creates” [“Our Grand Delusion,” interview by Corey Fischer, August 2018]. Huh? Does Fischer believe the anger that thousands of women with a #MeToo story feel is unenlightened? Or that their anger is caused not by their abusers but by their own self-centeredness?

There are situations in which anger is the appropriate response, and to pretend otherwise leads only to more suffering. Maybe it’s time for our spiritual leaders to get off their meditation cushions and take a look around.

William Dog Radtke Bend, Oregon
Norman Fischer responds:

Radtke is right. Sometimes anger is necessary and helpful. The #MeToo movement is an apt example, and there are many others — times when anger arises in response to injustice and becomes energy to help right wrongs, or as a necessary step in a healing process.

The classic Buddhist teachings on anger mostly deal with habitual, addictive, and self-destructive anger, and they tend not to mention instances of beneficial anger. These teachings need to be updated for our place and time, as Radtke implies. I agree that our spiritual leaders should get off their meditation cushions and take a look around — but I think it’s also OK for them to meditate sometimes, and even go on retreats.

“Nausea washed through me as I came.” This sentence in Jessica Anya Blau’s “Waiting for My Rape” [August 2018] exposed something hidden in me and left me blinking and dazed as a newborn. I am no stranger to the realities of sexual abuse and all the ways it infiltrates a life, and I’m only beginning to see that compassion is my most powerful tool. What a gift to have writers like Blau to help light the way.

M’Lissa Hayes Seattle, Washington

After reading Jessica Anya Blau’s story “Waiting for My Rape,” I wondered: Is rape something all women think about as they go through their lives, not knowing who is watching or lurking around the next corner? Men may not realize what women go through, and it’s good to see a woman bring awareness to this.

I believe in women’s rights and equality and am glad more women are standing up for themselves in the #MeToo movement.

J. Cole Jax, Florida

As a victim of rape and sexual assault — and in light of the current #MeToo movement — I was appalled by Jessica Anya Blau’s story “Waiting for My Rape.” I consider myself liberal minded and welcome others’ views about difficult topics, but publishing this story was a mistake, mostly because it lends credence to the argument that rape victims were “asking for it.”

Jessie Rice Dallas, Oregon

Jessica Anya Blau is a talented writer, but “Waiting for My Rape” does not have enough redeeming qualities to distinguish it from pornography. The protagonist’s predictable decision to return to the rapist’s house at the end of the story perpetuates stereotypes about victims of sexual abuse who secretly crave the experience. At this moment in history, does The Sun want to be associated with that message?

Ken Klonsky Vancouver, British Columbia
Jessica Anya Blau responds:

I greatly appreciate any person who takes the time to read my work and reply with a thoughtful response. To those who had a strong reaction to the end of the story, I’d like to point out that there is a serrated bread knife in the glove box of the car.

I love the rhythm, the honest and incisive language about the female form, and the sheer joy of being a woman expressed in “Praise Song for the Body,” by Brionne Janae [June 2018]. Kudos to The Sun for pairing the poem with Bill Steber’s photo of a woman getting down on the dance floor.

Jennifer Fortunato Sudbury, Massachusetts

I received my first issue of The Sun one month ago. I was so taken with it, I read every word in a day. One has time for such things in prison.

I received my second issue today. I will take the time to savor it, spreading it out over a few days. In the future I may even have the discipline to make each issue last until the next one comes.

David Lovell Redgranite, Wisconsin
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