Letters: Signing Up And Living In 'Whitopia'

Talk of the Nation listeners wrote to the show to tell the stories behind their decisions to sign up for military service. Also, Talk listeners debated the good and bad things about living in "Whitopias," or predominantly white communities.

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ARI SHAPIRO, host:

It's Tuesday and time to read from your emails and Web comments.

Many people in the military responded to our show last week about why people sign up in times of war. Benjamin(ph) in Arizona wrote: I joined the Marine Corps in 2005 and have since separated honorably. There were many reasons I joined. I looked around me and saw many of my peers not joining during a time of war and I felt I must do my part to pick up the slack. I wanted the hardest challenge out there, he writes. I definitely got that out of the Marine Corps. After deploying twice to Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I have made it out of the military with my life and limbs as a corporal. The Marine Corps infantry is no joke. There were many hairy times in Iraq. I made it out and I'm now struggling to be a civilian during this hard economic times.

Laura(ph), writing from North Carolina, initially joined Army ROTC just to help pay for college. But she eventually got hooked. She writes: Even though I am now working in a field that has nothing to do with what I did in the Army - I was in intel then - my training and experiences have had tremendous impacts on my civilian career. It has opened so many doors for me. Having served in two combat areas always reminded me to focus on what is really important in life and not to sweat the small stuff.

Our show with Richard Benjamin on the whitest places in America, what he called whitopias, brought letters in from all over the country.

Kim(ph) lamented the fact that she accidentally ended up in a less diverse neighborhood. I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and after college I lived in Florida, New York, Northern California, and now outside Boulder, Colorado, she writes. I didn't notice how white Omaha was until I came home to visit after living elsewhere. Now, I have accidentally moved to a whitopia in the suburbs outside Denver and Boulder. We moved to this neighborhood because we loved the house and it was in our price range, but I think it is out of the price range of many minorities, which is why I would call it an accidental whitopia. I love my neighborhood, but I regret the lack of diversity.

For listener Leila(ph), her move to whitopia was about schools. I'm in the process of moving from an urban area to one of these whitopia areas, she writes, because of the good schools for my three kids. The lack of diversity has been a major concern to us, but we're just going to try to keep relationships with our minority friends. We hope that the distance will not isolate us. Only time will tell.

Scott(ph) in Illinois had this to say about diversity in neighborhoods and why it is and is not important. He wrote: I was once very against the idea of a whitopia and the lack of diversity in general until I joined the Peace Corps and realized that there are a lot of positive things to be said about an area that has a single culture and background. On another note, I've noticed that we seemed to talk about lack of diversity being a bad thing more with white communities than we do with communities that are predominantly populated with other races and cultures.

And our trip to Columbus, Ohio: Test City, USA, brought letters from testers all over the country.

Neal(ph) in San Francisco wrote: Where I grew up in Hayward, California, in the 1990s, the makers of Colt 45 beer test-marketed a product called Cool Colt, which was the world's first menthol malt liquor, targeted obviously at the same market that buys a lot of menthol cigarettes. Needless to say the product was not successful and never reached a national audience. But to this day, I can't get the horrible cynicism of the concept out of my mind. It tasted awful, by the way.

And Michael(ph) brought up a product we almost forgot about. He wrote: I'm from Des Moines, Iowa, and we seem to get a new crop of the most fascinating product around: presidential candidates, every four years or so. New flavors, old combos of existing products and some just leave a weird taste in the mouth.

Well, you get to test TALK OF THE NATION every day, so tell us what you think. If you have any comments, questions or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by email. Our address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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