Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

When the dispatcher says to respond to a particular call on a "careful One", this means to use the ambulance's lights and sirens. First, you throw a series of switches: the light bar, the "Wig Wag" (which makes the lights alternate and flash) and the siren itself. The siren switch has several different settings so you can wake up the drivers around you by varying the sound (before we got our permanent ambulance I drove one that had a setting for "Phaser"; in fact it sounded like the weapons on Star Trek). When you are on a Code One, most of the traffic scrambles to get out of your way; you watch out for the deaf, oblivious or selfish driver who cuts you off and the pedestrian who, crossing the street, freezes in front of the ambulance. You get to do things like drive around traffic jams by carefully using the other side of the street; you go through red lights by poking the ambulance's nose into the intersection and making eye contact with the drivers to your right and left to make sure they have seen you and stopped. On city streets, you are still not exceeding thirty miles an hour most of the time; you get to the destination rapidly not by speeding but by avoiding obstacles.

Life is very simple when you are on a Code One. You are trying to get somewhere quickly but safely. At the destination someone is waiting who really needs your help. Whatever brain cycles are not dedicated to the problem of driving are used to review what the dispatcher told you about the patient's chief complaint and what you will do to help him when you get there. Everything else--your taxes, problems with children, insults real or perceived, bills to be paid--is bullshit. In the movie Bringing Out The Dead (which is much loved by EMT's) Nicholas Cage says, while at the wheel on a One: "I'm driving out of myself."

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

Jonathan Wallace

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.
Dear Sir,

Re Dictator Removal Service?.

I find your articulation of Bush as a man one in the same as Pinochet based on 3 staff appointments a true failure of logic and sensibility. One can comb the past resumes of the many thousands of presidential appointees representing all parties and administrations and find very distasteful and unsettling facts. However, reasonable people would not discern such conclusions that all presidential appointees are directly self-reflective and hold him equally responsible for past their indiscretions. I respect your well researched points of view, but you severely damage your own credibility when you attempt to sell assumption and bias as truths. In the future I suggest your leaps in logic be kept in your head where they don't discount your other half-truths.

Jeff Sweeney

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thank you for your piece on Salman Hamdani. I hope that it brings things into perspective for people. There seems to be so much hate for people who just want the same things most other Americans want. It is a shame that so much distrust exists because of the actions of extremist on both sides.

Lewis Thomason

Dear Jonathan:

(Re the New Jersey antiwar demonstration at which the Hamdani piece was read):

As my mother used to say "if johnny jumps off the bridge - will you?" I am also a Spectacle reader who would not walk across the street to participate in this. I am disappointed that you would promote such a rally at all, let alone one in which you have so little knowledge of its organizers underlying theme and plans.

Best wishes, Professor William Ferree

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Just read your article (sort of) What War Will Mean, where in your first paragraph you sarcastically criticize the President. "finally emerged from hiding"..... and "completely inappropriate boyish glee"....

You completely discredited your entire article with that opening.

You are obviously smitten with yourself and totally self serving.

Spare us all, please.

P. Smith

Re Israel:

I think you owe 'us' a correction and a strong apology! We know that the little Arab boy was shot by Arabs; not by Israeli soldiers. Why did you not take the time to find out the truth about this blood libel?? You owe decent, honest people an apology! Fay Justman

(Fay wrote a second time a short while later:)

Dear Mr. Wallace,

When I sent off the earlier e-mail, I had not read your entire diatribe. So, now that I know that you are a self -hating Jew, let me respond accordingly.

While your people were living here in the States, my people were being exterminated in death camps. Your prospective is one of very limited exposure to the harsh realities of being a Jew in an Anti-Semitic world. You blame your father, your Rabbi, the modern Zionists, the Israelis, etc.. You are a saint; everyone else is the devil incarnate.

I could remind you that G-d Almighty repeatedly promised the Land of Israel to the descendants of Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekkah and Jacob & Rachel & Leah.

G-d did NOT promise any land anywhere to any other peoples. If that bothers you; so be it. Keep in mind, that of the three million Jews 'living' in Egypt 3500 years ago, only 600,000 were redeemed. If you don't appreciate having been born a Jew; then renounce it.

Dear Jonathan:

I enjoyed your website and came across a great essay: Philip K. Dick and Human Kindness. I enjoyed this writers perspective and insight on Philip K. Dick and wondered if there was anything else to read.

Keep up the good work.


An Auschwitz Alphabet
Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have a few things I would like to comment on about your "Auschwitz Alphabet" site. #1: I found it rather disturbing that you would say "if you like this site, you're welcome to send me money". It's weird because all along as I was reading the site, I actually thought it was non-profitable (isn't that what ".org" is supposed to mean?) and you made the site to try to help everyone have a better understanding of what actually took place in the Holocaust... #2 I was thinking it was very informative and did a good job describing the horrific acts that took place during the Holocaust- up until I clicked on the "What I learned from Auschwitz" link. I was completely disgusted when you said it taught you that God does not exist. Nobody knows what God's reasoning is behind the Holocaust- only God and the victims from the Holocaust (who are up in heaven with Him right now) knows why it happened.

At another site I was visiting (www.holocaustsurvivors.org) you could actually listen to some Holocauste survivors tell their stories. One of the ones I listened to was Solomon Radasky. He had first been sent to Majdanek. He was there for 9 weeks, and for the whole time he was there, he was not allowed to even wash his face-- FOR 9 WEEKS! When he was taken out of Majdanek and placed in Auschwitz, he said "I just take off the clothes in 9 weeks what I wear in Majdaneck and throw away and take the first shower. And they cut off my hair and everything. And I got a clean shirt and I say, I said to myself there, 'God is still with me'."

More people need to have the kind of faith that Solomon Radasky has. More people need to put all their love and trust into God, and soon enough, when he lets you into heaven's gates, you will be able to thank him for all the blessings he has given you.

Mallory Borders

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am in the US Navy and just finished reading your website. As someone who was detached from the holocost, even by generations, I have come to be intrigued by the events. Its amazing to me that so many, comparitavely speaking, survived the horrors inflicted upon them. I am of the mindset that our children need to know of the atrocities committed by the Nazies, and even later in Sudan, Bosnia, how human kind can turn into inhumane monsters. Thankyou so much for posting your website. I for one will never forget, and will always support the cause of Israel.

Timothy L. Lindholm

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I found your Auschwitz alphabet while doing research on Google. In 2 weeks I am going with my grandmother to Poland to visit Auschwitz. She is a survivor and it is the first time she has been back in nearly 60 years. She will be providing her testimony to a group of French high school teachers.

I just wanted to react briefly to something I read on your site. You say that Auschwitz can only lead to the conviction that there is no God. Interestingly, when I came to my version of faith in my mid-20s (I am now 31) the existence of Auschwitz actually helped to confirm my belief in God.

Let me explain. I was raised by actively atheist parents who themselves were raised in agnostic or atheist homes. I started to have hints of my own spiritual leanings in high school but when I was in my mid-20s I made a leap of faith into belief. It became clear to me that I could continue to hold on to the strictly scientific "no-God" view of the world which I had always espoused or open myself up to the mystery of God the way I think of God: the origin and benevolence of the universe. The leap I made towards believing in the benevolence of the universe (as opposed to its inherent scientific indifference) helped a lot of things make sense to me. One was the Holocaust which for me was personal since 2 of my grandparents are survivors. As my sense of connection to God deepened and with it my humility, I saw that the Holocaust for all its horror was still part of God's universe.

My reasoning here is this: The inconceivable greatness of God and the goodness and beauty of the universe God created dwarf the petty evil of humans along with our most noble morality. This is not to say that God exists on a higher plane than human beings and is not concerned with us. I don't believe in a patriarchal God who will save you when things get bad: we are not children. But I do think that there are thousands, even millions of people who lived through the Holocaust who would say they were touched by fate, providence, a turning of the wheels beyond their capacity. There is God manifest. Yes, millions died in ways which run counter to basic human morality but far more importantly the spring came again, plants continued to grow, babies were born, the earth turned around the sun. For this, I say thanks to God. Yes, there was enormous suffering (when has there not been suffering?) but there was also heroism, selflessness and countless good things that came directly from the Holocaust. For this, I say thanks to God. The existence of evil or even moral relativism do not disprove the existence of God. In fact, they demand that we place ourselves in an appropriately humble relationship to God. You are right that we humans are alone in bearing the blame for the Holocaust and for the many atrocities committed since. We have free will and we use it stupidly. But God gave us that will, gave us life, gave us the world. These gifts surpass our limited imaginations as does the nature, the "why" of God. But just because we do not understand something, just because it doesn't fit into our prevailing theories does not mean it does not exist.

Hope these ramblings find you well. Thanks for the page.

Sebastian Dungan

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hello from Texas. I felt led by the Lord to know more about Auschwitz. I didn't even know how to spell it. Well, here I am. I look forward to reading each of the 26 "slices", to find the information God wants to me have. For spiritual warfare? To feel, with compassion, the suffering and persecution experienced by the Jewish people? The people, I know from being a spirit-filled Christian, are very special to God--the apple of His eye! What a lot of Jews don't know is that many Christians, as myself, respect--no, LOVE, Jewish people. We know how precious you are. We know JESUS was (is) a Jew. I have a bumper sticker on my car that says "My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter". I have been adopted into God's household. As a 'Gentile', because of Christ's sacrifice for me, I have been given the free gift of being accepted into the Hebrew God's family. The One true God.

I've felt a burden for the Jewish people and wish more of you knew how us Christians down here in Texas felt.

I'm off to see your website and I thank you for all the hard work, time and heart that you've put into this. I pray the fruits of your labor are abundant and reap a harvest of compassion, understanding and wisdom for the Jewish people and the world.

God Bless You, Holly Vanessa.