May 2008

Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

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 do so. 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 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 Mr. Wallace:

Your essay is incredible and describes all the feelings and emotions that are tied into being lied to.



Mr. Wallace,

I just wanted to take a moment to commend you on your article regarding the Amadou Diallo "MURDER." Although I realize that it is many years after the incident, I only recently, and fortunately, came across your article as a research source which I am using to write a 3-page paper for my Forensic Psychology course at a university in California. Despite the years that have passed, I wasn't sure if anyone felt the way I did about the incident. You put into words what I wish I could express myself, to in some small way, do "at least" Mr. Diallo's memory some "justice."


Glen Neveaux

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Obama's unfortunate remarks that small-towners hurt by the economy tend to cling to guns and tradition highlights a problem with all political strategy. It's based on stereotypes. It's based on categories used to predict voter behavior, categories that are pretty insulting, but are needed by any politician who wants to know whom he represents.

It works like this: "Gun owners vote this way, but tree huggers vote this way." But if you are both a gun owner and a tree-hugger, there is no place for you in the political spectrum. It also works like this, "Conservatives vote against taxes, but conservatives support the Iraq War." If you are a conservative who eschews both taxes and a costly war, there is no place for you in the political spectrum.

The political strategist's process of corralling voters into voting blocks freezes a good deal of us out of the process. The strategist would reply that when you are looking at a map and trying to determine who will vote for your guy (or gal), then you don't have time for subtleties. They need to look at gun owners as a voting block that would sooner die than vote Democrat, even though such a characterization is insulting. A strategist must look at the big picture. Nowhere is this more true than an Obama strategist who must take into considerations the Bradley Effect, or Dinkins Effect, where one acknowledges that about 5 percent of the voters will not honestly tell a pollster that they have no intention of voting for a black man, and will publicly give a thumbs-up to Obama so as not to appear racist. Such a calculation is terribly insulting to the voting public, but it is a calculation that any strategist worth his salt must consider.

Even though he fell prey to foot-in-mouth stereotyping last week, Obama has done a good deal to break down the notion of voters' blocks, of the categorizations that are used to divide us as a nation. Ever since his 2004 Red State/Blue State speech, he's had his ear out for church-goers that are also a liberal, union activists who are ready to recognize that some sjobs are gone for good, and rural voters who don't just fall back on the traditional comforts of guns and patriotism, but will embrace solutions instead of sentiment. But the man is running for President, so arranging our nation into cookie-cutter pieces and identifying those likely to go his way in November, is something that Obama the candidate needs to do. Hopefully, Obama can for the most part avoid the crude categorizations that lead politicians to pander to their base and forget the rest of us.. We'll just have to see if he's learned his lesson.

Aggie Haile