Issue 437 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


I found the March 2012 cover photo by William Carter fascinating and enigmatic. I’ve tried to come up with a single word that explains what the photo says to me, but each time I view it, a new word comes to mind.

Doug Drechsler Sun City, Arizona

As a disabled Vietnam veteran, I want to thank you for publishing “Underneath the Armor,” by Elliott D. Woods [March 2012]. In his account of a marine platoon in Afghanistan, Woods refers to human beings “closing their eyes each night to visions of chewed-up limbs and buddies screaming in agony as their blood pours onto the Afghan dirt.” He couldn’t have depicted the truth any better.

Gary McClelland Asheville, North Carolina

I was horrified and sick with grief after reading Elliott D. Woods’s “Underneath the Armor,” but I thank him for producing it. I pray for those young men. I pray for us all.

M. Scott Mountain City, Texas

Although I’ve been a Sun subscriber for many years, I can’t recall two back-to-back pieces having as much impact on me as “Underneath the Armor” and the excerpt from J. Krishnamurti’s The First and Last Freedom. Americans who feel entitled to cheap gasoline and wars fought with drones and other people’s children need to be exposed to the brutal power in these writings and photographs. Not to acknowledge such truths deadens the soul.

Thomas A. Bloch Ashburn, Virginia

I had been thinking of not renewing my subscription, but the March 2012 issue, with the photos of and quotes from marines and the Dog-Eared Page excerpt from J. Krishnamurti’s The First and Last Freedom, made my heart swell, and who does not listen to their heart?

Anne Holt Blanco, Texas

Your Correspondence section would be a lot more enjoyable if it weren’t filled with “I wasn’t going to renew, but then I read [fill in the blank], and I changed my mind.” As if anyone other than your subscription department cares that someone changed their mind about not renewing.

George Anderson Fair Oaks, California

The juxtaposition of the Christopher Lane interview [“Side Effects May Include,” by Arnie Cooper, March 2012] about the pathologizing of emotions and the photo essay about our military servicemen raises the questions: Why is war still acceptable? And how can we still send our young people into battle and then so inefficiently heal their wounds afterward?

Soldiers of my father’s generation received no acknowledgement of their psychic wounds, which may have spawned emotional distance from, or abuse of, their families. If our current soldiers are so horrified by what they’ve witnessed (and perhaps have done themselves), I hesitate to imagine what problems this may create after they get home and have to deaden their emotions as a way of coping.

We need to listen to our returning soldiers and to people who slip into the growing categories of “mental disorders.” Let’s begin by asking them, “What do you need, and how can we help you get it?”

Jeanie Middle Class Oceano, California

I read Ryan Berg’s essay “Tick Tick Boom” [March 2012] during some downtime while working the night shift, and it left me reeling. Then I turned a couple of pages to find “Underneath the Armor.”

My son was an army ranger who served in Afghanistan and was left with 100 percent disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder. He was shot and killed by a police officer last November in Farmington, Maine.

I took a few deep breaths, read these marines’ stories, and looked hard into their faces. Reading it with others around was a test of my emotional strength.

When I was done, I walked down the hall and cried. I cried for the loss of my son, for these and all soldiers, and for a world fixated on violence.

Ruth Crowley Portland, Oregon

I have long appreciated the ability of The Sun’s contributors to put into words the contradictions inherent in efforts to create justice in an unjust world.

After reading Ryan Berg’s essay “Tick Tick Boom,” however, I find myself angry over the author’s lack of effort to treat his own addiction and the high cost of his neglect for the gay youth named Rodrigo, who lived at the group home where Berg worked. I do not respect an author who seems to invest more time in wordsmithing than in seeking therapy and expressing his vulnerability where it matters most — not in the pages of a magazine his residents will never read but in person to Rodrigo himself, who needed authenticity, not platitudes.

Jessica Tartaro Austin, Texas

Ryan Berg should have told Rodrigo that he had to report his risky behavior. He should have dealt with whatever reaction the boy might have had, no matter how difficult. To betray Rodrigo’s confidence, no matter that the law insists on it, was a terrible act. I realize Berg was trying to save the boy’s life, but his actions only put Rodrigo in more danger by sending him away from supervision. Berg says he will continue to watch Rodrigo as the story ends. I hope he does.

Rich Quatrone Spring Lake, New Jersey

Short stories in The Sun have often moved me deeply, made me weep, and filled me with nostalgia or grief, but never has one given me such a rollicking good time as Cynthia Weiner’s “A Castle in Outer Space” [March 2012]. I read it in bed last night and had to hold in my laughter so I wouldn’t wake my husband. A delightful new adjective will be added to my thoughts about your magazine: fun.

Joanie Eppinga Spokane, Washington

After reading the February 2012 interview with Richard Wolff [“Capitalism and Its Discontents” by David Barsamian] I finally had a clear view of our current economic crisis. I already had intuitions about what had gone wrong, based on friends who work longer hours without raises as their employers reduce the workforce. I’d seen foreclosures in my neighborhood and felt sure the lenders were at least as responsible as the homeowners. I’d seen the stock market rise as more of us in the 99 percent went broke. But nothing clarified the situation like the Wolff interview, which dares to blame capitalism, in its present incarnation, for the problem.

And then you followed it with Philip Kelly’s essay “Painting the Summer Palace of the Queen,” which resonated like the overlapping melodies in a fugue. Washington Irving’s 1820 essay “A Time of Unexampled Prosperity” gave historical context to it all.

Likewise, I just finished Arnie Cooper’s March interview with Christopher Lane, and it validated my suspicions about pill-pushing and over-pathologizing doctors. By the time I’d read Ryan Berg’s essay “Tick Tick Boom” and Alison Luterman’s poem “White Lady of Once a Week,” I was wet eyed. Would that more people might read The Sun and be so moved.

Don Perryman Roswell, Georgia

Alison Luterman’s poem “Citizens of a Broken City” [February 2012] gave me goose bumps. The ending is so powerful and profound it has moved me to rethink my life.

Corina Anderson Bakersfield, California

I was so transfixed by the quiet lyricism of Philip Kelly’s essay “Painting the Summer Palace of the Queen” that I wanted to hire him to paint my home. Never mind that I’m bound by my apartment lease to keep my walls as white as the paper that the document is printed on; it would be enough for him just to pick a color.

Melissa Amos Portland, Oregon

I related to Joseph Bathanti’s essay “Real Work” [February 2012]. I hail from a former steel town an hour and a half from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he grew up. Here, too, hard work was our heritage. College wasn’t an option for me.

My daughter is now in her junior year of college. She also works part time — full time during breaks. I hope her degree allows her choices other than laboring in a power plant, scrubbing floors on her hands and knees, and unloading and stocking freight. Sometimes I wonder, though: have I done my daughter a disservice in not encouraging her to have at least one physically challenging work experience? The toll of manual labor is written in the scars on her father’s knees and in my weekly visit to the chiropractor (while we still have health insurance). Of course, in this economy, my daughter faces no guarantee of a great job as a reward for all her studying.

I understand Bathanti’s need to feel a physical reminder of labor to justify his accomplishments. I commend his efforts. Anything worthwhile is acquired only by real work — at least, that used to be the case.

Jackie Allison Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Lee Martin’s essay “No Ears Have Heard” [February 2012] shows that true compassion can come only after we suspend our judgments and try to understand each other. He quotes his former teacher, poet Miller Williams: “You do not know what wars are going on / down there where the spirit meets the bone.”

Here in the penitentiary, vitriolic language, impulsive reactions, and violent behaviors are commonplace, a manifestation of the prisoners’ existential despair. I strive to keep in mind that most felons are undereducated and come from homes where they were subjected to neglect and abuse and had poor role models.

Suspending my self-righteous disgust and disapproval, I can often recognize the painful void where their “spirit meets the bone.”

R.B. Sumner, Illinois

I read with complete understanding Sheryl St. Germain’s “A Country Where You Once Lived” [January 2012]. When I told my good friend that a doctor had said I have vaginal atrophy, he didn’t miss a beat: “You have a TROPHY vagina!”

Michal Jones-Stewart Shelocta, Pennsylvania
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