Letters To The Ethical Spectacle

Dear Mr. Wallace:

The shooting crisis at Virginia Tech has once again sparked the debate over gun control. The second amendment of the United States Constitution states: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Obviously the need for a state militia has been replaced by the National Guard and Coast Guard whereby trained military personnel are entrusted with the defense of this country against domestic enemies. Their weapons are tightly controlled and safeguarded.

The only two reasons for a citizen to own a firearm is for hunting and/or defense of the household from intruders. In either case, ownership of a handgun, shotgun or shoulder rifle is more than adequate to satisfy these purposes. There is absolutely no need for any United States civilian to own any weapon more powerful or sophisticated than these. Accordingly, all handguns, shotguns and shoulder rifles must be licensed and registered to the degree necessary to match weapon to owner at the click of a computer key. Furthermore, if we had prohibited the purchase of more sophisticated weapons, several innocent victims would not have died at the hands of Cho-Seung-Hui.


Dear Jonathan:

Regarding your article about Walden:

As always I'm impressed by your writing and your ability to commentate. I tend to debate but only starting with other people's initial thoughts. Thus I'm writing to you now.

I delayed responding so that I could look at my old copy of Walden from my Humanities course from decades ago and see what notes I had written in it.

The paperback, not being acid-free, was yellow and crumbling but one notation I saw I thought you might be interested in. I noted that Thoreau was the 19th Century American version of Rousseau. Both were lamenting civilization, complaining about advancing technology (more so Thoreau) and while dreaming of an idealized way of living in which they could shed the "tools/chains" of the present they benefited, as you pointed out, from what others have done to create such "tools/chains". And what the others did was create a civil society that promoted liberty, material and intellectual advancements beyond that which went before their time.

I maintain that human ingenuity, technological advancements and the shear spontaneous organization of society if allowed, would promote the well being of people far beyond imagination as it has even in our lifetime.

I would suggest that you look over some of the works of Julian Simon for an optimistic look at the human condition and you might modify Thoreau's phrase "A few are riding, but the rest are run over" to "A few were walking but the rest are riding."

Regards, Joe

Regarding your article about lying:

The truth is that every human including yourself lies. see when you tell someone one thing and deep down you feel the oppisite that is a softer form, but is still lying. So your article tring to make yourself out to be a saint is a load of b.s. Good try though.

Lier Oftruth

Hi Jonathan,

I just read your article That Traitor, Language. I very much enjoyed what you had to say and would like to explore the points mentioned a little further. I am interested in the creation process of a story with very little dialog with the emphasis on film as the medium. Can you recommend any books, reading material or maybe film that can help with stories using impressions rather than dialog to tell a story?

Thank you so much.


David Hoehn


I just read your little essay about Princess Diana. If you'd like to know more about analyzing this subject critically, get the book "The Princess and the Package" and the DVD "Bertie and Elizabeth" (available from amazon.uk.co - if you're in North America get region one, if in Europe region two).

While Diana was nowhere as intelligent as she thought she was, she was incredibly manipulative of the media. She was a genius in this respect. That, and her unique photogenic beauty (you don't seem to understand the power of the visual in the power of a sign or symbol - it is all about the visual with Diana) were why she became the Queen of Hearts. She actually coined the phrase, but she was so powerful that it has gone into the language as if the general public had been the source.

There were 3 truly charismatic media stars of 20th. century British royalty: Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and Diana. If you get that DVD you'll see a very well done explication of a point you bring up in passing which is vital in understanding the role of royalty to the population: the difference between the importance of the role and the UN-importance of the individual. And the royal personage needs to underastand this life or death concept IF the they are to survive pysychologically and succeed professionally. Tragically, Diana and Edward VII got it ass-backward. They thought THEY as individuals were important and the role and rituals UN-important. The Queen Mum stands alone among all the royals in having been the apotheosis of what it truly means to BE royal. The consumate actress, and such a powerful personality that although in her own elegant and witty way a monster, she enjoyed the best life a human being could hope to live, while giving the public what it wanted - religious communion with a saint, yet unlike Diana who was destroyed by it the Queen Mum thrived until dying the death we all can only pray for: peacefully, in her sleep, with all her faculties at 102!

Such a fascinating subject.

Cheers, Niki Rothman

Dear Mr. Wallace,

About a week ago I stumbled on your Auschwitz essay. It is the best analysis of and commentary on the Holocaust I have ever read. I avoid reading books about the Holocaust because, as you quoted in your article, much exposure produces clinical depression in sensitive people. My one exception is a copy of "Ordinary Men" which I still have. My information about it comes from references to it in books and articles about the Nazi regime.

I am what is called by many a "Secular Humanist", usually by people who don't like such creatures. What is worse, I am also an atheist, although not militantly so.

I am totally cynical about my fellow humans.

My view of the Holocaust has always been that it was not a tragedy for Jews, it was a tragedy for Western Civilization and humanity in general. I therefore resent the use of the Holocaust as a propaganda and public relations club to maintain support for Israel at fever pitch. Three million Cambodians were exterminated as a result of Nixon and Kissinger's invasion of Cambodia which brought Pol Pot to power. Why is there no atonement in American for our guilt as there is in Germany for the Holocaust? Does God love Jews more than he loves Cambodians? As you pointed out, genocide is genocide-period.

I agree with you that the number one lesson to be learned from the Holocaust is that there is no God. Human beings are strictly on their own. If anyone sincerely wants proof, just look at the Holocaust.

With regard to the role of religion, especially Christianity, in improving the behavior of human beings, I cite an interesting bit of trivia I picked up in my readings. The Nazi death camps had Catholic and Protestant chaplains assigned to them to serve the spiritual needs, such as conducting Sunday services, of the SS guards who were practicing Christians. One case was cited of a Catholic chaplain who after the war wound up rising to the position of a bishop. Obviously no great stigma was attached to his wartime service. Not to beat up on Germans, in the United States at the time of our Civil War, all the churches, Catholic and Protestant, of the Southern slave states, sided with the political secession and defended the moral righteousness of Negro slavery. Just doing their bit for the common cause that God approved of and blessed. Lincoln commented on the irony of Christians praying to God to give them victory in their war to preserve slavery.

When I first started to think about the Nazis and Hitler, over 30 years ago, I did believe that there was something special about the Germans. But now I believe that a Nazi type regime could happen anywhere. There would be no shortage of people in America to efficiently run death camps. Sincerely, Ken