Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

When I was in law school, for no particular reason I took a CPR course. Life never put me in a position where I needed to use those skills for the next twenty years.

Then I became an EMT, and every week or so we get a call for a cardiac arrest and arrive at an apartment or street corner where a patient is lying dead on the floor. In the seven months I have been doing this, I have done CPR on more people than I can count, most of them elderly, but also on a two year old girl and some twenty and thirty year old men. One thing you get used to in our business is that dead people tend to stay dead. Saves happen but they are very rare.

Last week, I did CPR on a woman my age. At first I thought she was much older, because her body was emaciated from AIDS, but then I looked at her face. Most cardiac arrest patients are very peaceful--every muscle in their faces has relaxed-- and she was one of these. Given her disease and her suffering, it was hard for us to know if she wanted to come back, but she hadn't signed a piece of paper saying that she didn't.

Paramedics are always there, intubating the patient and pushing atropine and epinephrine while we techs kneel on the floor beating the patient's heart and breathing for her. From time to time they say, "Stop CPR," and we hang back a moment while they shock the patient, or simply watch the monitor to see if her heartbeat is restored. This time, as I leaned away, I looked at the monitor and saw the beat continue. The patient's heart had started up again under my hands. It was an incredible rush. I can't think of anything else I have done in my working life which compares to seeing that rhythm on the monitor.

One of the bargains that I made with myself in order to do this job, is that I never follow up in the hospital afterwards to see how a patient made out. Once I have turned them over to the triage nurse, they are no longer my responsibility. My sole concern is that I do the best possible work during the minutes I spend with the patient. I cannot let my well-being depend on the outcome after that.

This was the first time I broke that rule. I went to the registration desk a few days later and said, "I brought in a post-cardiac arrest patient last Friday and I would like to know how she is doing." The woman behind the desk looked her up on the computer and said, "I'm sorry. Your patient expired."

"Do you know what day?" I asked.

"No, the computer doesn't give us that information."

I thanked her and went back to my ambulance.

Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. If you write to me about something you read in the Spectacle, I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. If you want the letter published, but without your name attached, I will also respect that. I will not include your email address unless you ask me to. This is in response to many of you who have expressed concern that spammers are finding your email address here. Flames are an exception. They will be published in full, with your name and email address. I have actually had people follow up on a published flame by complaining that they thought they were insulting my ancestry privately. Nope, sorry. For an example of this policy in action, see the next letter.

Quite simply YOU SUCK you rotten commie prick. I hope you rot and go to hell.

Scott Hartwell awanderingscot@hotmail.com

Dear Jonathan,

I hope you don't mind that I ignored "Bob Wilson's" diatribe in last month's letters column. I didn't see anything to be gained trying to come back to issues, when "Bob" seems so committed to ad hominem accusations, ventriloquism of the opposition, and avoidance of issues I raise (which he has a perfect right to challenge if he'd bother to address them).

And although I know you have defended internet anonymity, I strongly believe in taking responsibility for my opinions, claims, arguments and particularly any personal attacks on individuals and their character or integrity that I might make. For this reason, although I don't expect you to divulge "Bob's" identity to your readers, I do expect you to assure them that I am who I say I am, despite "Bob's" attempts to create doubt in their minds and thereby create the illusion that I have adopted the same defensive invisibiity as a protection against public accountability as has "Bob."

And I would expect some contrast in the willingness to stand personally accountable for publicly expressed and published opinions to be noted by you, as editor. I do not impune "Bob's" charcter, I only question his fortitude to stand tall next to the opinions he expresses badly. I could respect him more and perhaps feel less disdain for his attempts at condescension if he fessed up to people who know him that he thinks what he thinks and says what he says and he really means it.

I seem to recall you mentioning that because he feared loss of business or income, "Bob" preferred to stay camoflaged. Let me say that it would be naive to think I have not paid a price for speaking honestly and forthrightly and with candor as to my identity and my political outlook. I work in the real world, have a family, a job, and co-workers and supervisors who are not inclined to toleration of views. The costs have been real, sometimes severe. "Bob" has on occasion mocked me as disingenuous for claiming to have paid a price for acts of conscience that involved arrests for civil disobedience. It is a double mockery to be scoffed at by someone whose identity remains safely hidden.

Jonathan, I respect your desire to invite many points of view and perspectives to your on-line publishing venture. But I respectfully suggest that you discover some value system for it that is more nuanced. I am attempting to point out a double standard that your embrace of online anonymity may have created. I don't raise this point with any degree of satisfaction, because I have long thought that annonimity on the web might enhance free expression. I am begining to think it simply enhances adolescent irresponsibility well into advanced years.

Just some thoughts. Best regards and thanks for all your efforts.

Ben Price

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Your essay Natural Rights Don't Exist was quite excellent, however you fail in its lack of historical insight and teeter upon only a few rightings and fail in the magnitude of your theory of natural rights do not exist.

What you fail to perceive is that in fact natural rights are surrendered once one becomes a slave or chattel property by surrendering their natural rights for privileges granted by some innocuous document called a constitution which in fact is only a chartered corporation signed by its chartered members whose only interests are that of their own international trade corporations in merchant law and of which have no affair upon that of man outside of its scope upon land.

In fact all men are created equal in the eyes of God, however, not all men are created equal in the eyes of the law and law in and of itself is a fiction for only law creates fiction and fiction does not create law.

Respectfully, Thomas

An Auschwitz Alphabet
Hi, Have jst finished exploring your site looking for material to use with my students next week. The site is amazing, moving, touching, challenging, thought provoking... and I'm also glad I was just dipping and not immersed in it. So thank you for the time, but above all for the emotional energy it must have taken to create it. Just one thought to share as one who is still a believer in God.

I don't believe God doesn't care. His/her image in Jesus doesn't show that image at all, nor does his/her taking human flesh which is not always a good place to be. The powerless one is more complicated. I'm just sharing what I believe through my experience rather than my being part of any organised religion, tho I am indeed Catholic of sorts. I believe in a God who created mankind and did give us free will - thus sacrificing his freedom to act so that we could have the free will which is part of being human, rather than puppet or robot. The German people had free will, as did the rest of the allies and the rest of the world. I believe God cried as s/he still cries when mankind choses to use such a precious gift for bad - but I do not blame God for my choices or the choices of others. And I still see God in all that was good and transformative in the ghetto and in the camps.

I also found this on the net as I was wandering through......

 I do believe, with all my heart,  
   In the natural Goodness of Man.
  Despite the blood and destruction, 
    Brought by one man, trying to be God,
  In the Goodness of Man, I do believe.  
I do believe, with all my heart,
     That God gave man the blessing and the curse.
  Man can select the curse of envy, hatred and prejudices,
Or the blessing of love, harmony and beauty.
  Despite the painful curses of the past,
     In the blessing of the Creator, I do believe.
  I do believe, with all my heart,  
   That God created a beautiful world,
  The sun and the trees, the flowers and the bees.
     And the best way to serve God, is
  To enjoy the fruits of His labor of love.
     Despite the painful memories from the past,
  In the joyful celebration of life, I do believe.
  I do believe with all my heart,
     That God has created man in image of His own.
  And killing of man, is like killing of God.
     Despite the massacres in Rwanda, the cleansing in Bosnia,
The folly of Muslim fanatics, and the cruelty of Pot Pol.
     In the love and compassion of the Creator, I do believe.
  I believe with all my heart,
     That the Messiah and the Kingdom of Heaven will come;
 When man will conquer his destructive urge,
     And learn how to live in harmony with nature and himself.
When all the preachers of hate will be silenced,
     And man will become his brother's keeper.
  When man will stop killing man, in the name of God,
     And nation will not lift weapons against nation.
  When it will be, I do not know, but 
  Despite all the signs to the contrary.
  In the dawn of a Better World, I do believe.
I'm not trying to convert or convince you - just to say in response to what you write about God, that there can be three positions held in integrity, if not full understanding, not just two.

I don't know why I'm writing this - I don't usually write to strangers, but somehow it seemed important to me.

Shalom, Rosie


I found your page "Auschwitz Alphabet" while surfin' on the Net in search for books about the Shoah (I'm writing an article concerning "sort of a Shoah bibliografy") I just finished reading it and I would like to thank you for your great job. Although I don't much agree with your choice to put up an overview about "other holocausts" , just because I think it may distract the reader from the horror of the Shoah, making him/her think "Oh well, they suffered, but Gracious G-d are not now behaving the same way? Justice done!" - ok, assume I imagine a very stupid reader, of course:) - , I really had to drop you a line: you did such a complete job! There should be more sites like yours: not-institutional, really touching sites about Memory: it's the most important thing we have.

Take care,Francesca

Hi, Your page about Holocaust is great!!

It helped me to understand and learn more about it...

I Have written an essay about Auschwitz and your page was a big help!!

Thanks, from Veronica