Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

This is the most dangerous presidential administration since Richard Nixon's. Under Nixon we had Cointelpro, the FBI operation which spied on peaceful dissenters, compiled enemies' lists, committed warrantless burglaries of homes and offices, and engaged in dirty tricks. Today, we have a spy apparatus which taps telephone calls without even making an application for a warrant to the push-over secret federal court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act--a court which has rarely denied a requested warrant. Although the tapped communications ostensibly all have one end outside the U.S., incompetence and confusion about technology has resulted in domestic communications being tapped as well. Worse, the government accesses telecommunicatioon company switches and servers and routinely trolls through all of our communications looking for terroristic "patterns". As we know from the software filtering debate of the 1990's, government cannot tell the difference between speech about a thing and the thing itself. Just as essays about the social impact of pornography tend to be banned as porn, discussions related to terrorism (like this one) easily pop up in searches for terrorism. When the administration simultaneously claims a right to "disappear" people for secret reasons without allowing any court to test the legitimacy of their arrest, and then to "waterboard" them, deprive them of sleep, and threaten them with beatings and death, we are not very far from a dictatorship in which peaceful dissent gets punished by secret detention and torture. In fact, we are about a heartbeat away from that result--closer in fact than we ever were in the Nixon administration.

Al Qaeda is the acknowledged master of maximum distruction with minimum resources. By attacking the World Trade Center, bin Laden and his colleagues appear to have inspired us to destroy American democracy ourselves.

This is the start of the twelfth year of The Ethical Spectacle. That's longer than I've ever held a job, longer than I was an avid fisherman, longer than I practiced law. I hope to continue doing it until I can write here that we weathered this storm and live in calmer times. In fact, like the man who carried an oar inland until someone asked him what it was, I would like to keep the Spectacle going until there are fully grown people who do not remember the present crisis.

Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net


I just reread your essay on Interview with a Vampire. This was what got me interested in reading "the Ethical Spectacle" in the first place, because, like you, I found the movie and book extremely disturbing. I came across the book by listening to a campus radio station years ago. For some reason, a self-described "feminist" clique that was very involved with the station got into the habit of reading exerpts from the novel during several programs. One day while puttering in my kitchen some bright young thing who was newly interested in ideas started reading a passage where one of the vampires fed on a young child. My immediate, visceral feeling was that I was listening to a young woman reading child pornography on my community radio station. I was so disturbed and freaked out that I refused to listen to the station for years afterwards.

I'm not any sort of a rabid right-winger, and like you am not interested in any form of censorship. I think that the book is deeply twisted and vile, and was absolutely horrified to find that a set of young feminists were promoting it as some sort of "liberating" tract. Thanks again for your insightful essay. It articulated a lot of things that I felt were mine alone.

Bill Hulet

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thanks for the informative and sensitive read about lying. I find myself in the very difficult situation of dealing with a husband who lies. I find I am no longer willing to deal with being lied to. What will happen to us is hard to fathom.

Point of this note being: It was somehow painful AND reassuring to read your article. It helped to confirm my feelings about the harm continual lying can cause. One thing is painfully clear .....I don't want to be lied to anymore. And I seriously doubt he can stop.


Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thank you for your article Humility,Compassion and Death. The Tookie Williams execution last night prompted me to do a search on what Jesus' thoughts on the subject may have been,and I found your opinions helpful.

Sincerely,Scott Matheson

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I don't understand Ben Price's hatred of chain stores. I love chain stores, especially Wal-Mart. I find things that are really cheap there. For instance, I bought a surround sound home theater system with a integral DVD player for eighty bucks. It is totally wonderful. Fantastic sound, beautiful video. Now I see that they have reduced the price to sixty bucks. I think I'll buy another, perhaps several as gifts for Christmas. The local hardware store sells paint for thirty bucks a can. I went to Wal-Mart and got adequate paint for twelve dollars. For electronics and clothing and school supplies and a lot of things, you can't beat Wal-Mart in my opinion. And Wal-Mart takes stuff back! What is not to like?

I have not seen the hatred that Ben Price shows against corporations in any of the people that I know. If you want to know what the people think, just go to Wal-Mart. That is where they are shopping. As for small mom and pop stores, I hate them. They all seem to charge too much. If they all disappear from the planet, it will not be too soon for me. The 20th Century, giant corporations like Woolworth's, Sears Roebuck, J.C. Penney, Ligget, and A&P seem to be going away also. Too bad for them. They are not serving the people anymore.

People who hate corporations are just the new Luddites of today. They are not friends of man, they are the enemies. Wal-Mart is the friend of man. We are all much better off because of Sam Walton, or whatever his name was. And if Wal-Mart goes out of business tomorrow or next year, will I cry? Hell no! It will be because they failed to serve their customers and a different corporation (probably) took their spot. Good riddance.

Frank Germann

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I think An Auschwitz Alphabet is a great educator. If I could find words to describe the feelings I had while reading the pages I would- but there are no words that can desribe - one must also feel and then they will know. I thank you for showing respect to those that did not deserve there fate. I hate living, I am ungrateful but yet I have never suffered and have lived? Yet those children- why they had to be them and why I have to be me? Who knows what could they have been, but I know what a waste I am with my life. Its so hurtful to read, so tearful but yet I read because its the only way the victims will ever live- live in the imagination of the minds of those that read and picture what the went through.