Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

I eat alone on weeknights because my wife works until about 9 p.m. Most evenings I cook dinner for myself. One of the things which animates the day is thinking about what I'm going to prepare, checking to see if I have all the ingredients and shopping for the ones I don't.

Recently, I've been cooking a lot of dishes with basil, including several versions of a basil-tomato sauce over pasta, and also my all-time favorite, puttanesca sauce.

Here is a recipe I found in Newsday for a grilled fish with basil leaves. Its great with striper but other white-fleshed fish can be substituted.

On top of each filet, place a slice of tomato and one of onion and several torn basil leaves. Also, a half clove of garlic. Drizzle some lemon juice on it. Put a dab of butter or margarine on a piece of tin foil and wrap the fish and seasonings in it, then throw it on the grill. The tin foil keeps the fish from drying out and falling apart. Cook the fish about ten minutes per inch of thickness. While you're waiting, think about the prehistoric human who first experimented with adding basil leaves to a fish or wild beast roasting on the fire.

I enjoy your email as much as I do cooking and can be reached as always at jw@bway.net.

Jonathan Wallace

God v. God

Dear Peter,

A wise and life-affirming response that I warmly agree with. I regularly think of life itself as the anti-entropic force in nature....a power unto itself that matches and exceeds gravity, electrodynamics, the weak and strong nuclear forces...and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. And 'god" is a word without referrant in my lexicon...although I often use the term coloquially to give assent to the Universe (Uni-verse = One Word?) when others look to my common humanity with them to affirm their more traditional belief in a "personal god."

The anthropomorphism of god is understandable, given the divine chatter of our human brains that goes on and on, inventing matrices of inter-relationships between words -- which are the toe-tags on the severed extremities of our contact with creation. With the sudden ascendance of "GOD" our ancestors made those words and those connections dance round and round in their heads, inventing impossible relationships that could never exist outside the mind -- "out there" in the Universe. Only in the chapel of the human skull are the stained-glass filters of dogma able to animate the mannikan called "GOD" that is referred to in many a prayer for deliverance from reality.

If we're going to find any comfort in the wake of evil's passing it must be in our own committment to life. The ruble of tragedy is the monument erected by those in league with death. Opposition to such entropy is life's great cause. Yes, there is a Second Law of Thermodynamics. There is also a new law, and it is life.

Ben G. Price bengprice@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I discovered your interesting piece, The Ethical Spectacle, today. "Year Zero" is a challenging statement which bends my mind into new shapes and dimensions.

I have forwarded your address to several friends (without your permission, of course) but in the hope that I will start a conversation of substance.

Allow me (as a retired Lutheran pastor and a writer) to make two simple comments.

l. I do not believe God is a male. Yet God is almost always referred to as He. God, being God, must have both male and female characteristics if God was astute and creative enough to create humans as male AND female. So, what is the solution? Forget the pronoun, and simply say God (or He and She, which is cumbersome).

2. To give God singular recognition, position, standing, I consistently refer to God as The God. "The God created heaven and earth." "The God is all-wise, all-knowing." etc.

Just a comment and suggestion.

Thank you for your page. I will continue to follow your essays.

Karl Danielson jackdaniels007@att.net

You should retitle this peice "Jonathan Wallace vrs. Good Taste."

Did this rambling sermonic diatribe have any purpose other than to "out" Mychal Judge?? If so it was lost on me.

You should be thankful that free speech includes the right to be total fucking Jackass.

The Civil Liberties certainly allow for extreme viewpoints, but extreme viewpoints are usually the excuse I hear used for disallowing the Civil Liberties.

Oh! thats right, you are a goddamned attorney, I forgot, the basic rules of human decency dont apply to you.

Please stop using my name. You are an embarassment to it.

Yours Truly, Jonathan Wallace aquamanjon@aol.com

I did not "out" Mychal Judge. My source for much of the information, including the fact that he was gay, was a very respectful article in New York Magazine.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

... a very good piece; however, it makes far too much sense to be of any value to the unwashed.

The world needs more iconoclasts.

I wish I had written it, myself. :)

Anthony Alexandre AnthonyAlexandre@hotmail.com

Bravo, Mr. Wallace!

Although I deeply disagree with your assertion that this portable, selective, undeclared war is the proper response to the attacks on New York and Washington, I do enjoy reading your essays. They give voice to some of the things left unsaid in the corporate media and their unquestioning allegiance to the Pentagon and its press releases.

This one should generate some interesting responses from the arbiters of morality.

I hope you don't mind my using the quote in my signature. Let me know if you do and I'll remove it.


Peter D. Stanislaw pstanislaw@peoplepc.com

When people talk of the "clash of civilizations" and say the Qu'ran is a very violent book, they probably haven't looked at the Old Testament recently. ~~Jonathan Wallace, www.spectacle.org

Steganography My Ass: The Dangers of Private and Self-Censorship in Wartime
Dear Jonathan:

You wrote:

Tom Gutting, city editor of the Texas City Sun was also fired by his publisher for commenting on the President's behavior the day of the attacks:

"There was W. flying around the country like a scared child seeking refuge in his mother's bed after having a nightmare....W. has behaved like you would expect a first lady to."

(For what its worth, I also agree with Guthrie and Gutting and spoke of Bush's disappearance in my own essay written on September 11.)"

Is it your opinion that women in power are likely to behave cowardly, or am I missing something?

- Jens Matthies Jens.Matthies@o3games.com

Not at all. I would have done better to delete the second sentence of the quote.


In response to your article and especially James Donald's letter of comment:

Ann Coulter wasn't fired because of her views, she was fired because she badmouthed her boss on television. She's not a victim of censorship.

From the horse's mouth, NRO editor Jonah Goldberg:


What publication on earth would continue a relationship with a writer who would refuse to discuss her work with her editors? What publication would continue to publish a writer who attacked it on TV? What publication would continue to publish a writer who lied about it - on TV and to a Washington Post reporter?

And, finally, what CONSERVATIVE publication would continue to publish a writer who doesn't even know the meaning of the word "censorship"?

So let me be clear: We did not "fire" Ann for what she wrote, even though it was poorly written and sloppy. We ended the relationship because she behaved with a total lack of professionalism, friendship, and loyalty.

Martin Wisse Martin.Wisse@soz.pinkroccade.nl

Dear Jonathan:

I appreciate your taking the time to say it.

Jeff Jacobs jsjacobs@midmaine.com

Everything else
Dear Mr. Wallace,

Everytime you bring a new issue of the ES online, I really enjoy reading the articles and sharing them with many of my friends. I am a German student and 20 years old. In my age group, many think that America's inhabitants can only be fools or "deliberately stupid" people. We read about censorship, about tribunals, earlier we read about a more than ominous election etc. And when we switch on CNN, we know that the presented truth, as in most media, is only selective. How this selection works is seldom revealed and we cannot be sure that what we get to know is more than what powerful people want us to know. I want to thank you and all editors of ES for showing me & my friends that there are intelligent and moral people in America, who do more than just accept what they are being served on TV. THANK YOU for breaking our biased image of "the American".


PS: On http://www.spectacle.org/695/arbeit.html you show a photograph of the gates of the Auschwitz prison camp but the colors are inverse (I'm sure you noticed). And the name of the camp commander is Rudolf Höss (that's an o-umlaut, you could also write "Hoess")

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Re your article on Kent State:

Earlier this year the campus police attempted to get allocation of KSU funds so they could buy Uzi's (automatice weapons) for the campus police force. Luckily Carol Cartwright, President, vetoed their request.

I was reading the Daily Stater, KSU campus newspaper on-line, and found a story about a Navy flight simulator was going to be on campus on December for any student 17 to 27 years old to operate.

No one protests and I see only jingoism. Don't people realize those simulators are replicas of the cockpits of planes killing the people of Afghanistan. Kent State should pull the plug on the simulator and if they don't you should (literally). Charles T. Stockbauer

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I enjoy your work - keep on keepin' on!

I put a link to your bread and circuses article on my website.

--- Best Regards,

George W. Wright george@georgewright.com

Dear Jonathan:

How's this for an ethical spectacle:


I'm a .50 owner. Sen. Feinstein's a liar. Imagine, just for a moment, the media reaction if the NRA had lied in a similar way. It wouldn't just be a single rant in the National Review, methinks...Two groups, two media standards.

James M. Ray jray@omnipay.net

Hello, Jonathan,

This is my response to your meta-message in your debate with John Trentes on gun control.

In fairness;

I'm an IT guy of sorts myself, having consulted in IT for the past 9 years. My preliminary education is in electrical engineering and I hold an MBA from an ivy school. I've lived in 8 states in the US and have traveled in many others, as well as most of western Europe (mostly for pleasure). I've shot since I was taught by the local police Sergeant at the police range in the basement of the police station, when I was 8 or 10 years old. I have collected (mostly rifles, mostly military-esque) since Massachusetts tried to ban everything but squirt guns (unsuccessfully, but who knew then...) back in '87. I'm a mild libertarian, preferring to err on the side of too small a government than too large a one, believing that generally government control is only warranted when the efficiency of the monopoly provider out-weighs the inefficiencies of typical governmental waste and corruption, which I believe is more rare than we've come to accept. I do see valid purpose for government in its own perpetuation - and as such I differ from the hard-core libertarians in that government support for education is critical to an educated populace, which is critical to the continuation of a democratic republic. The Democrats seem content to baby the population and maintain (but not really improve) the condition of the least fortunate. The Republicans seem content to industrialize and dominate commerce while imposing a defined order (theirs) through religious means. Both of these approaches seem tragically flawed.

I think that makes us 'equal' enough on each other's background and position. I missed the original discussion, so please pardon if I tread on ground already covered...

I would suggest that your argument of private gun ownership as an environmental 'problem' is parochial in that there will always be a greater whole wherein the 'real' environment persists. So in Wallace Township (WT) guns may not exist in private hands, but at its gates and on all sides, they will be part of the landscape (keeping with your analogy). Further, I would assert, for those whose livelihood depend on the application of threatened force (criminals), the gun ban would be ignored, and knife and clubbing crime would increase relative to their prior level in this or peer communities.

(Note the statistics on both violent and property crime, in both the UK and Australia - both surrounded by wide 'moats' and so better isolated from their neighbors than WT - in the years immediately before and since virtually complete prohibition of private gun ownership has been instituted. It's pretty ugly.)

The above presumes that the criminal acts are, of course, economically motivated and no violence-for-violence-sake perpetrators or violence as a means to political ends (NAZI Germany) are lurking in the wings... Again here, a lot has changed since 9/11 relative to the validity of such presumption. But that aside for now, WT would become as NYC or WDC is today, the bastion of legal gunlessness for the citizenry and the pinnacle of violent crime for the nation (in both cities gun ownership is very nearly or completely illegal - simple possession is felonious in DC).

I don't entirely disagree with what I understand as your base assumption though. I'll re-state it in my terms and see how it fares;

Guns in private ownership/possession is entirely appropriate, even desirable, in some societal settings and dramatically inappropriate in others. Further, the terms of that appropriateness seems inversely proportional to population density, mostly owing to the nature of human knowledge, experience, sensibility, and anonymity in densely vs. sparsely populated areas. The scale of appropriateness is not absolute; it is gradual, running from absolutely normal in one area of extreme to absolutely insufferable in the other.

I'd add one of my own theories to the mix here;

Guns in private ownership/possession tends to decrease significantly the frequency of violence within a society though it may increase the severity of the violence when said does occur. Contrapositively, lack of private gun ownership tends to increase the frequency of violence while it may reduce the severity of the average violent crime.

I believe this latter theory it born true by most if not all data related to societies that have both increased and decreased private possession (or shall I more correctly say increased and decreased the ease of private acquisition).

This notion, that there is no absolute good or bad possible, but only a choice between infrequent but severe events vs. frequent but generally less severe events of violence, seems like a different approach to the 'sun control' debate.

One more and then I'll shut up and invite your reply... ; )

Technology is very rarely a containable entity. Even technology that is evidently dangerous to the continued existence of the planet could not be contained. It may be restrained in one way or another for a period, but in all cases of which I'm aware, as a technologist myself, knowledge propagates throughout the globe and throughout societies. This seems to have been true in ancient times as well as in modern times, in open societies as well as restricted ones. The society most successful in reversing the trend recently was Taliban Afghanistan, and it did not last more than a few years - at which point all the technology which surrounded it washed right back into the void within days of the fall of the regime. Net-net, it is pointless to oppose technological advancement and expect that opposition to be successful in the long term. Like water, it seeks its own level within society. If it exists and can be exploited to a political or economic benefit, it will be. The only way to mitigate this tendency is to even the playing field. And since governments, economically-motivated criminals, and nongovernmental political actors ('terrorists') all play in this same sandbox (with us), and are therefore unfettered by law (in most real senses), the only way to mitigate the tendency is to allow, to the greatest degree possible, that technology to be had by as many actors as possible. This ensures that competing interests are sufficiently cautious of one another as to maintain relative calm. It does not mean that everyone needs nuclear grenades in their shorts; it does mean that the bad guys should be maintained at least as nervous about whether the good guys can and might shoot them as vice versa. Without that, the bad guys have the odds of the house- and the rest of us have to trust the dice we're handed...

Guns are a technological advancement beyond bows (well, that may be arguable, but for this discussion...), and bows likewise over spears, and spears over rocks... (Guns do, after all, just propel a more refined version of a rock at a higher speed in a more controlled direction.) The only sustainable cure for a technology, once discovered/created, is a more advanced mitigating technology, not a law. This too seems to be supported by virtually all scientific advance (military and other) over time, since the Aztecs invented the notion of zero as a numerical digit.

I realize these thoughts are not organized in the most elegant of ways. Please pardon the bumpy segways.

I'll look forward to considering your analysis.

Cheers, Eric Emerson eric_emerson@freddiemac.com

An Auschwitz Alphabet
i saw yesterday your webpage An Auschwitz Alphabet.

it should be translated to hungarian.


Takács László Krisztián krisz@drotposta.hu

Hi Jonathan--

I just sent a $50 donation through the Amazon.com system. A special request -- use about 8 dollars or so to get a used copy of The Myth of Rescue: Why the democracies could not have saved more Jews from the Nazis by William D. Rubinstein (prof. history Univ. Wales), 1997, Routledge, (If you havent read it already). Consider the views in the book at any time you may update the Auschwitz alphabet, particularly his chapter on the feasibility of bombing Auschwitz. (Factoid: The Jewish Agency for Palestine, whose input was sought by the Allies, explicitly vetoed in 1944 the idea of bombing Auschwitz on the possibly sensible (certainly debatable) grounds that it would kill more Jews than it would save. )

The entire work is a currently alternative view that should be assessed in evaluating Allied action or inaction.

Trust me, it's worth the time for anyone even mildly interested in the period.

Matthew Hogan matthewhnj@aol.com

Dear Mr Wallace:

I am a Spanish young woman. Currently, I research to write a Ph D in English literature. Two years ago I had the inmense luck of being chosen to take part in the Erasmus programme, and to be sent to the destiny I had chosen. I wanted to go to Poland, and my dream was fulfilled.

I inmediately fell in love with the country: its culture, its music, its landscape - its unsurmountably beatiful language. And I wanted to know everything. I went to Auschwitz.

I tried to prepare myself psychologically for what I was probably going to see. I thought I was prepared. But I wasn't. I don't think anyone can be.

Dear Mr Wallace, I feel I do not have any right whatsoever to talk to you about what I felt as I walked inside that place of indescribable pain and death, pain and death which are still to be felt everywhere in the walls and in the air of Auschwitz. But as I read yesterday night the Alphabet you had built I felt an inmense gratitude to you. I only wanted to say thank you. I suppose I wanted as well to try to communicate my pain for what happened there, and indeed everywhere else where pain was in that time, with someone who could understand my feelings, someone who can understand them even more than I do.

It was human beings who were tortured and killed, it was life, dreams, families, love, hope, that were brutally severed. Those terrible events pertain to humankind. I can't stop the tears, but somehow I know, that all those who died there, and indeed all those who are dying daily with no reason, live forever if we remember them, live with us and protect us. Thank you Mr Wallace, for dedicating your time to the creation of this Alphabet, so that people do not forget those who disappeared there, and those who are daily forced to go with no reason.

Please receive the admiration and gratitude of someone across the Atlantic,

Yours sincerely, Marta G. A. maddalo@airtel.net

Dear Jonathan,

whilst researching material for a novel (set in Birkenau/Auschwitz) I came upon your 'alphabet'.

Extremely moving. You are to be congratulated on not only your selection of quotations but also a 'mature' summing up.

I am indebted to you for reviving my spirits (battered by ploughing through so much that is depressing). Although shocking in its subject, so much of your alphabet reveals that the human spirit is basically unconquerable. Many thanks, Jonathan, many, many thanks.

Yours, Max Tickner maxxrose@austarnet.com.au


Recently i have been thinking of this shameful deeds the germans did and coming to grips with it.Since you have studied this happenings i wanted to know if the persons who where in the camps knew about their fate, was it known that there were gas chambers in the camps? Another question was if it was know in europe before hitler's death of the existence of the gas chambers?

I have been thinking recentely of such evil acts and sometimes is hard to understand.

Thank you very much.Bye

B. Kaltani

hello my name is yajaira and im am 13 years old, ever since i herd of the jews, and how they where killed i became intersted in this.

im not an american i come from ecuador which is in south america. i was going through the pictures of the jews and everytime i see them it makes me so sad.

im most interted in the pictures because in the reading you can realy see what happen it is just facts.

thank you


Dear Mr. Wallace:

My name is Viktor Lewin. I am the son of a survivor of the Holocaust, Jakob Lewin. My father and his family lived the small town of Losice, Poland, and so it was for many generations. My father was only 21 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland. He and two brothers and a sister saved themselves,but were never to see their parents and five other sisters again.

Next year will mark sixty years since the liquidation of Jews from the town of Losice. In 1941 the Nazi military occupied a building at # 2 Mickiewicza Street. In 1942 the Nazis stole 100 headstones from Jewish cemeteries in Sarnaki, Mordy, and Losice,itself. These were brought to this place to be used as the pavement for the courtyard .Over the years there have been many attempts made to reclaim these holy symbols, but all have met with the same fate: failure. The Losice town council did allow the placement of a commemorative plaque, which I understand was brought from Landsleit in Israel, but it had to be removed because of repeated instances of vandalism and graffiti.

Breaking this down to it's simplest elements, what we have is this:1. the barbaric extermination of thousands of innocent men,women,and children, 2. grave robbing and the desecration of holy symbols, 3. further humiliation by using the headstones for personal pleasure, and remaining for this very purpose for sixty years, 4. a Jewish cemetery that has been neglected and left to decay, 5. nothing of a " concrete " nature that will remain as a reminder that here once lived a people who were a vibrant and integral segment of Polish society.

The Polish government talks about reconciliation, but does action only take place in high profile cases. There are more than just a handful of cases just like Losice, so how can healing/reconciliation take place when so many " wounds" are left unattended.

I have a petition in the works that will end up at Losice town council when it is completed, so if are interested in this cause then please contact me. Thank you for this opportunity.

With regards, Viktor Lewin viklewin@shaw.ca

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I my humble opinion, I believe that you have missed the mark on a few points. Please, don't disregard this ramble as inflammatory or dismissive. I have not experienced, first hand, what any doomed prisoner of Auschwitz / Birkenau must have went through. I am simply a friend with an opinion. PLease listen before replying.

I agree with you - there is no god to intervene in times of tragic crisis - it is within our own minds and bodies to be gods or demons, nothing more, nothing less. It is fully understandable, as human beings to condemn those who devalue, desecrate, and destroy other lives and families, but it is not within your (or my own) conscience to devalue the effort of others to bring this great tragedy to a mass audience. This work is not always true to form. This work may not make an accurate portrayal of a working class family(s) heading for their destructrion and ending as a billowing cloud of smoke from crematorium #1, but it serves a singular purpose - It raises awareness of the plight of and compassion for other human beings. Simplification of the events is not only a good idea (for media purposes) but is necessary to raise awareness. It is not up to you or I to tell the whole story, nor can we. There are thousands upon thousands witnesses to the tragedy to complete this story. It is up to us to remember this, and like the human experience is fond, every individual life is worth a story, movie, book, and remembrance. It is not yours nor mine, yet it is all of us. I commend you on the study and remembrance - please remember that simple media devices such as visual cues or story focus is not a slight on our people. All lives and stories are precious, even if only one. I am sure you will have a few wonderful stories to tell to your own family.

Marcel Legros marcellegros@shaw.ca