Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

I had a computer crash this month and can't presently access a half month of mail. If I get my data back I will run all the missing letters next month.

I recently completed an emergency medical technician course. I am not yet an EMT as I have not received the results of my certification test.

Friday night I pulled off the highway next to a three car collision that had happened moments before. The middle car in the collision had collapsed like an accordion; its rear and front were crushed but the airbag had deployed and the driver survived without an apparent scratch. He was walking around, shocked but lucid, concerned about his glasses and some medicine still in the vehicle.

In the class we drilled repeatedly on simulated unconscious victims. I was a bit startled to confront a victim who wouldn't stop running back to the car. I checked his mental state, inspected him for bleeding and brushed some glass off him. I also gave him my cell-phone to call his daughter. What I should also have done is seat him some place, get someone to stabilize his head, and evaluated his breathing and pulse. Next time.

I always wanted to be that person, who would stop for any emergency and know what to do. On Friday I had the first part down, not yet the second. That will come with more experience. The next step is to hook up with a volunteer ambulance corps. I'll keep you posted.

I can be reached as always at jw@bway.net.


Year Zero
Dear Jonathan:

The social and psychological and mythical and principal meaning of the attack on and destruction of the two World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, despite the human loss that we civilized folk count as paramount, will historically be a record of symbol over substance because the prepared response was of the same stuff. Without routing the source of that attack, the heart of American invulnerability, which was suddenly violated, cannot rest. The hatred that schooled suicidal assassins mustered against the greatest power on earth remains and will remain a welcome black hole of ignorance for the victim nation, which cares little for reasons and buckets for vengeance. Little wonder here! So violated and so mocked, the American Empire will suddenly join into a common cause with the common workers and peasants it has of late chosen to designate the enemy of its corporate global expansion. It will use the victims the same way the murderers have: to advance goals that will make the numbered dead in this atrocity small potatoes compared to the victims of greed. The greatest crime regarding this attack on American innocence will be committed not by the bastards who flew the planes but by the usurping criminals who concoct a murderous response. The bad news is that the American public, habituated to football style jingoism, will go along with just about anything. The good news is that some will not.Good Lord! If we're going to shed tears, shouldn't we spare a few for the victims of the lie that is now being magnified beyond all proportion? Are we "At War?" Or are we instead in a war mind-set that allows us to transcend law and take vengeance as we see fit? And isn't this just more of the same tyranny magnified in the lens of monstrous violence? Are we obligated to lock-step behind the war horse of a suddenly invigorated pseudo-president now that he has a "unifying message" to horse whip us out of our delusions of democracy? I don't think so.

Ben Price bengprice@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Your essay on the Ethics of Bombing received a meritorius review in my left-of-center weblog, Anodyne (see http://involution.org/anodyne/2002_03_01_anodyne.html#10924072) Began as a crusade against the drug war it has been covering a larger variety of political subjects since the post-9-11 zeitgeist has taken over. Seldom do I read such a well-thought-out piece of writing as this--especially on subjects that are so difficult, like ethics and war. Thank you for the enlightening words - I hope I did them justice in my short review.

-DMT demitria monde thraam monde@involution.org
involutionary ideations: http://involution.org

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I dont know if you'll get this or even read it, but I salute you. I have only read a couple pieces from your Year Zero collection, but I could not wait to respond to it. Your account of A Hard Rain moved me to tears to have discovered the voice of poet hidden within all the noise, like somber eyes beneath laurel leaves, lost in the shadow of towering yew trees.

Your september eleventh account was incredible. The balance of national pride with rationale and criticism of your government is testimony to my faith in the future of humanity.

I was doing research online for my essay on Yeats' "The Valley of the Black Pig", and instead I found something quite extraordinary. I know I should have read more before writing this, but I had to let this out. I am a canadian student, addicted to history, addicted to the news, addicted to world events, even before. I grow more disallusioned by the day, but I know I have a duty to pay attention, to try and understand, a duty more people should hold. My friends don't understand. My family doesn't understand. I am a freak for watching the news, for trying to figure out why people are strapping bombs to themselves. I quickly turn the channel from CNN when my dad walks in the room. By and large, the babyboomers want nothing to do with the news. Its too depressing. They're too busy. It doesn't concern them. Escapist televsion, computergames, and all things idle are the concern of our culture. This is why it happened.

Your site was revitalizing. Thank You.

michael menion crazymenion@hotmail.com

Dear Jonathan:

I regularly get e-mail advertisements that say something like this: "You can have a six figure income in six months if you act today." I send them some money now. I get their plan or program (usually a Ponzi scheme of some sort). Most of us getthem. Most of us trash them. We see through the false promises. As Jonathan Wallace sets up the ethical dilemma of "The Magic Button," the payoff is taken for granted. Cancer will be eliminated in a generation; 260 million Americans will be saved from terrorism. The only reality in the game is that if the button is pushed, the price (in terms of lives) will be paid in advance. Those who set up such real life games may honestly believe in their goals, but that does not make them factual. War is a terrible thing-- always has been, always will be. Leaders point their troops and technology at others. With rare exceptions, wars are fought by proxy. You didn't see Osama ben Laden on any of the 9-11 aircraft. You don't see George Bush leading a Special Operation Team in the mountains of Afghanistan. Neither do you find the senators, bankers, or the newspaper columnists (or the mullahs, sheiks,or bankers of the Muslim world) on the front lines. (Okay, the exception comes when the front lines are pushed back to their redoubts.) Whether our proxy fighters are high technology smart bombs or young women and men conditioned to obey every order, "buttons" are regularly pushed and prices are paid in advance to accomplish speculative goals. I'm not saying all promises of payoff are false. Sometimes,they pay off at least in the short run. However, the long-term implications are never certain in the ever changing game of reality. (One of the classic debates of modern history concerns the terms of the Versailles Treaty. The Allies wanted to crush and punish Germany for her role in W.W.I. They did. Was Hitler and the carnage of W.W.II the result?) Jonathan speculates on a preference for "feet on the ground" type combat as a means of avoiding the deaths of innocents. This may be true. I would certainly like to think so. However, troops are programmed to obey orders. In many cases, they are (psychologically, if not legally) absolved of guilt if responsibility for their actions can be passed back to others. "I was only following orders." Whether it's said by the guards at Auschwitz or the American troops at My Lai, it sounds familiar. We would like to believe that our troops on the ground are highly ethical people who would risk their lives rather than murder innocents. The fact that we would like to believe does not make it true (or false!) One of the common themes of combat troops asked why they fought goes something like this: "Once we were there, ideology disappeared. We fought to stay alive. We fought for each other. My squad, platoon, company was a family. We came first." Does anyone really believe that American troops would not immediately obey an order to push a TOW missile into a habitated shack if there was a possibility that entering the dwelling might cost a couple of lives from their group? Do you think that an American officer would refrain from giving that order? I would suggest that only if he were under orders not to, or if the parameters of mission demanded such risks be taken.We have been inculturated to accept the notion of "the common good" as a higher value. The irony is that true "common good" is a collection of what is good for individuals. It is not some abstract ideal in which all individuals suffer. If you remove individuals, there is no "common good." According to the Gospel of John,Caiphas, the high priest of the Jews declared that it was better that one man (Jesus) die than the whole nation be destroyed. Others agreed. We probably agree as well. However, what about two men? 10%? 49%? If a 50% plus one majority has no right to forfeit the lives of the rest, what percentage does it take in order forthis to be a moral choice? Does it make any difference is the sacrifices are made one at a time or all together?Those who choose to sacrifice themselves for what they perceive as a common good are those who are lifted up as moral and heroic by the cultures they strive to save.. Those who demand that others make the sacrifice-- or who lightly accept such sacrifices without serious thoughts and thanks-- are of the based sort. We need t opay careful attention to what is happening around us. Do we have moral high ground on which to stand? I guess it all depends on who you ask.Walter Lee walt@crcom.net

Everything else

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I liked your article Thomas Jefferson and the Crown of Creation; it is a wonderful, accidental, and almostcompletely random electronic "line" you have drawn to me. I put on my 26 year old Compact Cassette radio recording of Jefferson Airplane's Crown of Creation and was so blown away by how good it is that I decided to try to buy a vinyl copy, approximate value $15 dollars, and google somehow led me to you. Disjointed thought: I'm not sure how many politicians can be honored for their aspirations. Possiblythey can be honored, respected for their ambition and drive but I'm convinced theyare not interested in what would ultimately benefit those that need help the most. I believe the answer is in a more fragmented, yet somehow incredibly aware voting populous. Third, fourth, fifth party politics, is it just my fantasy.Anyway, think it was great for you to have been able to see JA at fifteen. I had the tape and probably listened to it 100 times and still didn't understand what they were expressing. I'm glad though, now that I'm 40 it seems so much more profound than it did then, I am sad to say that at the time it was just another record myself and my friends could tape uncut from the radio. I am in agreement with you that we need to stop interpreting the lives of those who lived so long before us against the societal backdrop of 2002.

Brooke Sovereign bsovereign@triton.net

Dear Mr. Wallace,

Props to your website. I read something new today. The issues of atomic bomb and its consequences.Just to let you know. Please continue this websitebecause it is the most effective way that I can learn about opposing opinions.

With gratitude,

Thuyen Dinh webbtizen@yahoo.com

Hi Jonathan,

I greatly appreciate your site and the work you put into it. It's almost invariably thought provoking and interesting. A reminder from time to time that the USAcontains decent people too.So I've just fired a few dollars through the Amazon link for you. I wish you all the best in your effort to spend more time on it. Although I'm not sure that's a good thing for my time, as keeping up with the Ethical Spectacle already takes a couple o hours a week.

ThanksMoz moz_nz@aol.com


I was paging through the internet when I came across the Ethical Spectacle essay on George Orwell. I was a little disappointed to see that someone had taken the time to write such a lengthy essay about someone whom they claim to "not know enough about..." (it's sort of near the top). Isn't this irresponsible?

It sounds like the author's bone to pick is with his/her memories of childhood. If the author's teachers used 1984 to scare kids off communism, then the author did him/herself a great disservice by not bothering to read any of Orwell's other books. Complaining about school elections that took place in the 1960's? Come on. Orwell fought the fascists in Spain.

I haven't the time to go through the rest of your website, as it is late. The idea is interesting (although I suspect that anyone with the energy to read these essays already agrees with your politics), so I suppose I may come back to see what else you have to offer.

Thanks for your time,

Jeremy Hartley duffield10@hotmail.com

An Auschwitz Alphabet
Dear Mr Wallace,

Forgive my intrusion, but I wanted to share with you what I had learned from Auschwitz.First, that no evil has ever been more tangible. Nearly 60 years later, Iwas stifled by an overwhelming nausea when I passed under the first gate telling me in German that'work makes you free'. I glared in sorrow at the place where the band played. I staredin horror at the look on the face of a teenager. The expression was one I will never forget as long as I live. He was only having his picture taken. Whatterror was he seeingbehind or beside the camera? I cannot even imagine.What I also learned, and what I want to share with you, is that God is not responsible for what happened at Auschwitz, Satan is. He hates the Jews and always has. He used the Germans from Hitler on down to to reign a terror on the Jews unlike any other they have encountered or will encounter again until the last days. The Jews are God's chosen people. He loves them. God, however, declared in the Garden of Eden, that sin wouldbe ours to bear. Free will and the right and ability to choose would be ours to bear. God did not commission the Germans to exterminate the Jews, and in fact did not allow their total destruction as Hilter would have liked and tried to do. God did allow the German people to decide they would support this Satanic man, Hitler (who, by theway, I firmly believe was possessed by a demon). God did allow the American people todecide to NOT intervene until a humiliating number of Jews were lost. Do you see?God would have supported and blessed the attempts to rescue the Jews and other countries'interventions, but He had to keep His word and allow us free will. WE decided the Jewswould die (we being trhe people of the world at that time). Every German who pulled atrigger had a choice. Every country who turned their backs had a choice.When finally the world could deny no more, Germany paid the price with a leader dead from suicideand a country that lay divided and in ruins. A far cry from the glorious thousand year Jew-free reign Hitler had in mind.There are consequenses for our decisions. As surely as putting your hand over a flame will burn, choosing sin over God will always lead to destruction.God leads us horses to water, but he won't make us drink.I will be at Auschwitz again in a couple of weeks. I will say a prayer foryou while I am there.I hope sincerely that God reveals Himself to you. May I close by sayingt wo things to you,personally. One, that being a Jew makes you special, not abnormal. You are among the chosen. Chosen by God. What an incredible heritage. You can literally trace your ancestors to the beginning of time! And second, why do you seperate yourself from the protestants? Apparently you are, as you call it, a secular Jew. If so, then I would encourage you to become the most special kind of Jew of all -- a Christian Jew. Jesus Christ did not die at the hands of the Jews, He died at the hands of Satan. He did, however, die for you as well. Ask God about His Son. I can only promise you this: God will reveal Himself and His Son to you if you ask, and if you do, it will bring to you an unimaginable peace unlike any you have ever experienced before. Whatever you believe, ther eis a God. He is the same God the Jews and Christians worship. He is real and alive and He does intervene. And He loves you.

Kellie Lydaykcelle@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I learned a lot from your site but I'm a strong Catholic, so I believe in God and I believe God does everything for a reason we just don't really know the reason we may find it someday, but probably won't, we will find out when we go into Heaven. God didn't kill all those people the Nazis did, mainly Josef Mengele, and Adolf Hitler brainwashed them. I'm doing a report about the Twins of the Holocaust, and many of the books I read about the survivors of the Holocaust (and other awful things) say that they still believe in God some say even more stronger than they did before and if they went through that much and still believe in God than I still believe in God.


Kathy Taylor alienmice6002@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hello my name is Carri kite-Schrader. I have always been horrified of the things that happened in the Holocaust. I myself have two children and I weep out loud for the children and the families that were murdered. I wonder how did we let this happen?

Bless you and what you are doing.

Carri Schrader jerryschrader@sbcglobal.net