In the July 2007 Correspondence Name Withheld questions the “feeble thinking” behind Christian forgiveness. To me forgiveness is about letting go of anger and resentment. Like everyone, I have felt these strong emotions, but I’ve learned to let them go, because they eat away at me, and I do not want to be devoured. Life is too short and too full of better things. When we indulge our anger and let it dominate our thoughts, we inflict more harm on ourselves than on anyone else.
Poe Ballantine paints a brilliant and deeply disturbing portrait of the modern plague of methamphetamines [“Methamphetamine for Dummies,” July 2007]. His message of despair is true for many other illusions that the material world offers the unwary. There are plenty of dead-end roads available; all seem to lead to sun-filled days but ultimately end in suffering and loss. Like drug addicts, we strive for comfort and pleasure, and we exploit each other to get it. Our garages and attics are full of things cast aside, and broken relationships abound. The fortunate among us discover that the real path to happiness lies in service. Only by giving of ourselves can we become fully human.
“Methamphetamine for Dummies” hit home with me, literally. I am from San Diego, where the events of the essay took place, and I have seen firsthand the horrible consequences of meth addiction. One time, while working at a local market, I sold a Snickers bar to a known “tweaker.” After he left the store, I watched through the window as he bit into the candy bar and made a confused face. At first I thought the candy had gone stale. Then he looked over at me and held the bar up for my inspection. Two of his teeth were embedded in it. He just smiled, shrugged, and went about his day.
I hope that more people will read Ballantine’s essay before they fall into this trap. Meth will cost them everything: their health, their dreams, their relationships, their money — everything. All you ever hope to achieve will go straight up your nose.
Parts of Lois Judson’s essay “When the Lion Lies Down with the Beach Ball” [June 2007] were familiar to me from my days of passing out Jehovah’s Witness tracts, magazines, and books. (I’m now passing out Adbusters.) I was born into a Witness family. After twenty-two years I left in disgust as an atheist. Half my family would later follow.
Judson, however, makes many incorrect observations. The biggest is that “there’s no hard work” involved in being a Witness, and accepting Jehovah is all it takes. Becoming a Jehovah’s Witness is a life-altering commitment. Seven hours of Bible study and door-to-door proselytizing a week was the absolute minimum; many Witnesses put in 120 hours a month. Every move we made was filtered through extensive study and meditation on the Bible. Judson was right about the most important thing, though: we will all “fold back into the anonymity of atoms,” and that’s nothing to fear.
Lois Judson responds:
I was not aware that being a Jehovah’s Witness involved so much study. Certainly my cousin, who calls himself a Witness, does not attend classes or go door to door. Also, when I spoke of “work,” I was referring more to the philosophical work of trying to determine the meaning of life, of searching for God and deciding what he or she demands of us. When one joins a dogmatic church, there’s no longer any need for all of that.
It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed as hard as I did reading Peter Selgin’s “The Man from ’Stanbul” [June 2007]. Having gone through a different prostate “procedure” (prostatectomy due to cancer), I have lived some of the experiences he describes. His witty, hilarious account left me howling. I hope his procedure went well and encourage him to hang on for the rest of the ride.
As the wife of a man who pees three times a night, I could sympathize with Peter Selgin. But his assertion that “most women would just as soon have their male lovers shoot blanks” is just plain wrong. My husband’s orgasms mean a lot to me, and I enjoy receiving his semen. What fun would sex be if it wasn’t messy? It’s straight men, not straight women, who are repulsed by the thought of being ejaculated into. For women, who are used to dealing with our own bodily fluids, it’s just another part of the great, sticky, shiny mystery of life.
Peter Selgin responds:
Thanks to Dan Otero for his encouraging words. My procedure did go well. Though full recovery took longer than expected, I’m pleased to report that side effects have been minimal and may vanish completely with time. As for Erin E. Schmidt’s bold embrace of “stickiness,” she’s got my vote. Three cheers for precious bodily fluids!
Concerning Sparrow’s poem “The Ten Commandments” [June 2007], I find it neither paradoxical nor inappropriate that the Commandments do not mention love. Love can never be commanded but only offered freely.
James Kullander’s interview with Joan Chittister [“Be Not Silent,” June 2007] reminds me of something a former pastor at my church used to tell us: that we are the Church, not the hierarchy. This same pastor also said that if you think you know the answer to a difficult question, such as abortion or end-of-life matters, you need to go back and look at the question some more.
I agree with Chittister that this is not the time for Catholics to abandon the Church. Change can only come about through people who love the Church in spite of the evils perpetrated in its name. In my limited experience, I’ve often found that women Catholics, who are denied places of power, are more faithful to the Gospel than are the male priests and bishops.
When I read Alex Mindt’s short story “In the Near Dark” [June 2007], about a misdiagnosed miscarriage, I had just found out I was pregnant for the first time. The pregnancy felt extremely tenuous, and I was aware of the real possibility of miscarriage.
As I read Mindt’s story, I was dumbfounded. Could a woman expel tissue and still be pregnant? Could a doctor misread an ultrasound and convince a patient to abort a viable pregnancy? Could a D and C that’s performed to make a miscarriage more bearable actually kill a healthy fetus? I felt that by publishing this story, The Sun did a tremendous disservice to women who are trying to conceive. Not enough explanation was given, and because it was labeled “fiction,” I didn’t know what to believe.
It’s now a week and a half later. Today, after bleeding briefly this morning, I was told that the baby has no heartbeat. The clinic required a second opinion on lack of heartbeat, and the other doctor confirmed it. They even said the baby had deteriorated slightly. My choices: wait for a natural miscarriage, which can take several weeks to occur; take a drug to induce a miscarriage; or have a D and C.
So here I sit, haunted by the possibility that if I take the drug or have a D and C, there’s a chance I could be killing my baby. Or I can endure the grief, exhaustion, and morning sickness that come with waiting for a natural miscarriage.
I wish with all of my heart that I had never read that story.
Alex Mindt responds:
My heart goes out to the above reader, and to any reader who felt undue pain as a result of my story. Matters surrounding pregnancy, as I know from my own experience, can be tragic and heartbreaking.
In defense of The Sun, which chose to publish my work, I must say that the medical aspects of the story, though dumbfounding, are completely factual. Yes, a woman can pass tissue, bleed, and be advised to end a viable pregnancy by doctors who can’t get a good reading on an ultrasound. I know this firsthand.
I just read Sy Safransky’s Notebook [June 2007]. His wife, Norma, talks about going out of town for two weeks to volunteer for the Red Cross, and he dreams about another woman. Men.
In Arnie Cooper’s interview with Greg Palast [“Forget What They Told You,” May 2007], Palast says, “Do you think white Georgia politicians would ever get the Democratic nomination if they let all the black voters register? The white Democrats have a fear of a black party. They would rather lose seats, even lose the governorship, than have a majority black party, because the white Democratic Party elite would lose their posts. It they hadn’t kept black people from registering they’d have Cynthia McKinney back in Congress.”
Fact: The Georgia Democratic Party’s last nominee for U.S. Senate was a black woman named Denise Majette.
Fact: Two of three statewide Democratic officeholders are black — Attorney General Thurbert Baker and Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond.
Fact: The 2007 minority leader of the Georgia State Senate, Robert Brown, is black.
Fact: Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin is black.
Georgia Democrats are trying to do something very difficult: build a coalition of whites and blacks to hold a majority in this state. Georgia Republicans, on the other hand, tried unsuccessfully to pass laws to require photo ID at polling places — which would disenfranchise many poor and elderly people of both races.
By the way, Cynthia McKinney was an excellent representative at one time, but the reason she is not back in Congress is because she hit a police officer, then lied about it. Though she later apologized, her actions were an embarrassment to all the constituents of the fourth district.