I am an attorney for the Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety and a Sun subscriber. Imagine my surprise to see our department mentioned in Stephen J. Lyons’s “Letter from Central Illinois” [April 2003].

I was interested in Lyons’s take on the potassium-iodide pills our department passed out. The pills were not distributed to protect citizens in the event of a terrorist attack on a nuclear plant, per se. And, unfortunately, instructing the public to get away from the source of radiation is as precise as we can be without knowing where that source is.

I will say this: I’m with Lyons. I don’t have any pills. If he doesn’t mind, I’d like to join him in that green world and chase a few lightning bugs myself.

Laura M. Stolpman
Springfield, Illinois

When I read Richard Grossinger’s “A Phenomenology of Panic” [April 2003], I felt as if someone had reached across the miles and helped me hold my head up and my shoulders back. Those of us who are well acquainted with such demons naturally regard ourselves as defective, as, in Grossinger’s words, “someone who should be thrown out for another model.” Grossinger has weathered the journey and finally gained spiritual clarity. His words are a balm to others who desperately need to know that they are not alone with their panic.

I agree that Buddhist practice, and not drugs offered by indifferent psychiatrists, is the answer. I also agree with the psychotherapist who said to Grossinger, “You’re one of the strongest people I know.” Suffering does breed strength and gives one an inexplicable edge in life.

Kelly Aanrud
Amherst Junction, Wisconsin

I am not sure how your magazine started arriving at my house, but my eyebrows went up when I noticed the lack of advertising. I have now received two issues. I’m impressed.

Maybe it’s because I have become so stupified by the media in general that I am surprised to find myself enjoying a magazine. I am not a religious man and am about as likely to join a protest movement as I am to start voting again. I have rallied and protested against any number of grievous things, and it got me nowhere. Yet I keep finding little gems scattered throughout your pages. Sy Safransky made me cry, because I wanted to be eloquent, too.

So, yeah, keep sending it.

Daniel Williams
Athens, Ohio

Sy Safransky’s Notebook is the first thing I turn to when the new Sun arrives. I do this even though I’m a Republican and it’s pretty clear he can’t stand our president or his politics. Safransky is just so good at laying things bare, at giving honest, intimate glimpses into his mind and heart, and I want to thank him for that.

I was disappointed to read, at the bottom of his March Notebook, that he will no longer be writing one in every issue. Although I can understand that his time is limited and demands on it are many, I really will miss reading those pieces. I will have to start saving for his book of collected essays. And I will enjoy the times, now less frequent, when his writing appears in the magazine.

Debra Shervo
Burnsville, Minnesota

I love The Sun and have the greatest respect for Sy Safransky and the good work that he does. But as a political moderate, I have become increasingly bothered by The Sun’s unrestrained vitriol toward George W. Bush. I guess I must have been out of the room the day he stole the presidency, because what I saw was an exceedingly close contest decided by constitutional means. As to 9/11 and its aftermath, the president provided strong and assured leadership when we needed it most. Though far from an expert, I would also say that, on balance, the people of Afghanistan are better off because of the actions taken by the Bush administration. I have deep reservations that Al Gore, as pious and sanctimonious in his way as George Bush is in his, would have done as well.

Would I have sent our troops into Iraq? Probably not. But the assertion that, absent this particular war, the world would be a better and safer place — especially for the people of Iraq — is eminently debatable. The Left can sneer all it wants, but it seems to me that blind moral certitude, no matter what the source, breeds hatred and is the very lifeblood of much of the world’s turmoil.

Al Neipris
Mansfield, Massachusetts

I interned for a literary review here in Missouri last year, and I chose Stephen Elliot’s story “Stalking Gracie” [February 2003] as “the one” that should get published from the hundreds of manuscripts I went through. The editor held on to it for two weeks, but in the end decided it wasn’t right for our magazine. I’m glad to see that Elliott persisted and that his story found an excellent home.

Lania Knight
Columbia, Missouri

In his letter [Correspondence, March 2003] concerning Jimmy Baca’s “A Place to Stand” [December 2002], Charles Boles downplayed the real suffering of another human being. Unless Boles himself has dwelled behind prison walls and experienced Baca’s bitterness, he should remain silent.

Baca’s description of prison life was very realistic. There was not one variation from the cruel reality of the American penal system. Earning respect from other prisoners does, in fact, necessitate “viciously beating another inmate,” as Boles put it. It is perceived by convicts as an act of self-defense not just against a man who’s trying to steal the last thing a prisoner has — his manhood — but against a tyrannical system. The same holds true for taking a stand (even a self-destructive one) against staff, who have the power to do anything they want to a prisoner. It is the only way we can be heard. Prisoners live in a world in which they have no rights, only privileges, and the focus is survival. Besides, didn’t Baca deserve an education? Doesn’t everyone on this planet deserve an education?

I think if Boles spent a little time inside prison with society’s rejects and scapegoats, he would undoubtedly experience the very bitterness that he criticized Baca for having. With no more compassion than Boles displays, I cannot believe he was involved in a prison-based ministry. Instead of nonchalantly registering his displeasure, he should consider the millions of prisoners, here and abroad, who cannot register theirs because it is silenced.

As for Baca, he is every prisoner’s hero; he overcame, rising above prison to become a published writer. His story and others published by The Sun have afforded me the most consolation I have had in seven years of confinement. Furthermore, Baca gave me hope and inspiration.

Boles and others like him should stop judging us; we’ve already been judged.

Stephen Kepley
Iowa Park, Texas

Kudos to The Sun for its coverage of the globalization debate. The March 2003 issue was especially enlightening. If only other media outlets were as interested and as resourceful.

James Carroll
New York City, New York

I loved Jamie Passaro’s interview with Barbara Ehrenreich [“Fingers to the Bone,” January 2003], but I take issue with one thing Ehrenreich said, regarding the boycotting of chain stores and restaurants that don’t pay a living wage. If you boycott these chains, she said, “then where are you going to shop or eat?”

In spite of the big chain takeovers, there are still places to shop and eat where the workers are treated decently and paid enough. There are even places where the workers are the owners. These places would proliferate and grow if given half a chance.

My own small business, The Root and the Leaf, is struggling to survive in a downtown decimated by Wal-Mart, Kmart, Shopko, and various other chains. I’ve been in business for two and a half years and am still not quite able to pay myself a living wage. I’ve been forced to take outside jobs and sometimes have worked up to eighty hours a week. I am willing to do this because I love my store and believe that eventually I will not only be able to support myself, but also to hire others and pay them a decent wage. This would come about sooner if people boycotted the big chains and patronized small local businesses instead.

And I promise Ehrenreich that she wouldn’t feel guilty for shopping in my store.

Beatrix Jenness
Great Falls, Montana