Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Last night we were driving down a back road on the East End of Long Island when we saw a stopped car ahead of us in the other lane, and people in the road. At first we thought a human had been hit; then a Great Dane dog; then we realized it was a deer. The confusing element, which made the visual information hard to interpret, was a woman sitting in the road hugging the dying deer. Was she expressing remorse? Making herself an important figure in the scenario, when she could do nothing else? Or trying to impart comfort to it? It didn't seem likely that a dying wild animal, unaccustomed to human hands, would react to being touched as anything other than part of the uncomprehended horror happening to it.

We are myth-making creatures, wrapping random events in meaning. The Ethical Spectacle is my myth, and by writing to me, you share in its creation. I can be reached as always at jw@bway.net.

Jonathan Wallace

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am a student at San Diego State University in San Diego California writing a paper on the pros and cons of campaign finance reform. I came across your article while looking through a reference handbook discussing the subject. I enjoyed your article and spent time browsing the site. I particularly enjoyed reading your biography.

The points you made on abolishing campaign financing were very true and I agree with them all, but I felt compelled to write regarding your suggestion as to how candidates would campaign-via the internet. Would this not rule out lower-class citizens who may not have internet access from knowing where candidates stood on issues? I can see the same problems of having the wealthy educated people have an unfair advantage over more common individuals in politics. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about this, if you have the time.

Sincerely, Matt Skinner skinner_619@yahoo.com

Mr. Wallace,

RE: The Public Killing of T. McVeigh:

Your position on the death penalty is not shared by a "significant" a percentage of the American public. I wonder if it is possible to have a "moral" response to this particular execution. It may be moral to take McVeigh's life if we consider the enormity of his crime. Your quotation of Sister Helen Prejean's account of Riley's death is not moving to those who consider the behavior and emotions of his victims (He may have been wrongly accused, but that is another issue). Consider the many people in the building McVeigh bombed and their suffering as they lay dying; that is what may motivate the "frying pan" crowd.

I enjoyed reading your piece. You are a fine writer.


Tom Barbiero barbiero@hopper.acs.ryerson.ca
Toronto, Canada

Dear Jonathan:

I read with interest your article regarding the McVeigh execution. I understand your position and I wonder. Would you feel the same towards McVeigh had he been one of the worst murderers of the Holocaust? I have a feeling, that to be consistent, you would say "yes."

I don't agree with your assessment that the personal involvement of the attorney general is a sign of his "extreme fundamentalism." Do you not believe Janet Reno would be similarly involved?

Frankly, just because Ashcroft has sought to accommodate the desires of those who lost loved ones in the bombing doesn't mean that his religious "fundamentalism" is involved. To the contrary, it was Reno's attack on the fundamentalist group in Waco that supposedly set McVeigh off. Would it not be logical to assume that true religious "fundamentalists" would not be that happy about McVeigh's execution, and thereby, not so eager to accommodate those who want to watch?

I have met McVeigh's trial lawyer (Stephen Jones) prior to this incident. He defended (unsuccessfully) a young man on a cocaine abuse charge, and I was a member of the military court that found his client guilty. Mr. Jones now says that McVeigh most certainly was a member of a conspiracy that carried off the bombing. I would tend to agree, since it is hard to imagine one young man doing all that work. Frankly, I am sad to see him executed, simply because I would like to find out who else (that escaped punishment) was involved. Killing McVeigh will make any efforts to find out the whole truth much more difficult.

It seems the government wants McVeigh dead so as to send a message. As with the Kennedy assassination, I doubt we will ever find out what really happened.

Bob Wilson

Hi Jonathan,

As usual, I read through this months Spectacle, and came across this in the article Franklin's Vietnam and Other American Fantasies by Michael Parenti:

Never before had these two categories been conflated, in all past wars, "prisoners of war" were people known to be held by the enemy, while men "missing in action" where presumed dead. But the new politically concocted mix invented the myth that "our guys" were still over there and thus that America was, into the late 1990s, still being "victimized" by Charlie.

Now, I don't disagree with the main ideas, that a lot of people see the US as being "in the right" in Vietnam. The problem I have is with the above ascertation, since it _can_ be proven that there was no accurate accounting for some MIA. (no, I don't have the numbers). It is also fairly well known that the NVA/VC _did_ hold prisoners for long periods of time, there were French forces held until the mid 60's at least, and then finally released, and there is the case of (Pte) Bobby Garwood, who was held until in the 1980's.

Were all the MIA actually POW? Not a chance. Were _some_ of the MIA actually POW? or had been POW? Yes, most definitely. What happened to them? Dead by now, hard to find out. Should we at this point continue looking? I think so, because of closure.

James Powell wx732@roadrunner.nf.net

Dear Mr. Wallace,

About four years ago I submitted a paper to your site called Racial Conflict and Diversity. The paper tried to show why political correctness, afrocentrism, and other collective movements of the left found at some universities could be predicted to foster (or cause) spontaneous racialization among whites, leading to a psychological cycle that would end in "hate crimes." That is, leading to a cycle that would end in a spontaneous outburst of irrational violence aimed at perceived representatives of various outgroups.

Since this time, Ben Smith, who appears to have attended a university with these kinds of organizations (he was spotted a year before his outburst at an "anti-hate speech" rally, holding a sign that said "no hate speech = no free speech"), has provided support for this theory. More compelling (to me) is a short byline in the Akron Beacon Journal (May 10th, page A11) which states that Richard Baumhammers, recently found guilty of shooting eight people in a classic outburst of irrational violence aimed at perceived outgroup representatives, graduated from Kent State University in 1989. I attended Kent during the 80's and early 90's, and drew my paper from these experiences and introspection, alongside consideration of what the Supreme Court and various psychologists had published.

While it is never possible to be certain about cause-effect relationships in cases of crime and the like, and while other factors may indeed push an individual "over the edge," I find these two cases compelling support for the model submitted. Further, if we look to the history of Germany for evidence, (the actions, arguments, and tactics of communists eliciting national socialists followed by each feeding off the other), even more support can be found.

In this light, perhaps we can agree, it is sad that so few understand the important role played by individuality and Liberty in the USA, and it is criminal negligence for educators and other policy makers to support the formation of left wing collectives among American young people. Liberty is the only solution; all other roads only lead to bloodshed.

At any rate, I hope you are well and wish you the best.


Michael Sullivan mbsullivan@zdnetonebox.com

An Auschwitz Alphabet
Dear Mr. Wallace:

I think that what you have done here is extrordinary, and educational. People need to know what happened so that it won't occur again. I am a student and I found your site very helpful to my work.


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am not Jewish, I am American, and I was raised in a Christian, Baptist to be accurate, home while I was growing up. I write you because I was deeply moved while viewing this website. I have always been a student of history, particularly of American military history. I have recently begun reading and researching the WWII era. I will not bore you with my lineage, however, I am of Irish and German, no offense, descent. While researching my family history, I discovered my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was a prosperous land baron in Germany, Deutchland, and immigrated with his family to Colonial America circa 1700.

My point is, the feelings I felt I cannot put into words. The atrocities the Jewish community faced during that moment in history are appauling, for loss of words. I wish to say you have done your culture a marvelous service by telling their story and ensuring that millions of people are not forgotten. God Bless!

Timothy D. Osburn II tdo522@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

our relatively young country, namely Croatia, was ruled during the last decade by a semi-fascist government lead by the late president Franjo Tudjman. As a result - an entire generation of youngsters of which some of them are now in their late teens, a number of them already belonging to "skinheads" of the worst kind, were mis-educated thanks to an official programme of manipulated history where Auschwitz, holocaust an particularly Croatian concentration camps ( like Jasenovac) didn't exist. Now with the help of the Jewish council of Zagreb and the Ministry od Eucation ( of our new government) we are planning to start a programme for young people between 10 and 23 including elementary schools, college and universities. Discovering your Auschwitz Alphabet on the Internet an idea was born of using some of the "letters" and distributing them as leafletts among young people in schools, even on streets . Particularly on certain days and occasions - like on the day proclaimed as the Holocaust Memorial Day which we are goign to proclaim very soon as the by our parliament recently nominated comission for the education on Holocaust.

Our question to you and bid is: can we count with your permission for using some of the "letters" of your Auschwitz Alphabeth in our leaflets? If yes, please let us know as we plan to start with our programme already this Summer.

Thank you once again for the Alphabeth regardless of your decision! With best wishes,

Zora Dirnbach,Croatia

Dear Jonathan,

I recently discovered your website while researching the Holocaust for a Humanities class that I am taking at my local community college. The class is entitled, Surviving the Holocaust. I have read your material and want to let you know how much I admire your work. I too find Primo Levi's work to be the most profound and eloquent of the Holocaust writing. Your analysis at the end of your work draws powerful conclusions. I concur with you that we must always look within our selves to find meaning in all the atrocities documented by the Nazis. It is not enough to study and learn the history, the point is to find out what we can each individually do to prevent any indecencies, any cruelties.

The letter from your uncle provided me with a fascinating look into a Jewish mind that can somehow reconciliate the Holocaust with a kind and loving God. I thank you for including such a personal and yet revealing letter in your work.

One of my class requirements is to present a special project for the whole class. I am a collector of children's literature, and more specifically I collect alphabet books. Your website immediately attracted my attention with your provocative title, Auschwitz Alphabet. I would like your permission to reproduce the alphabet portion of your work and put it into a booklet. I would of course, give you credit and share your website address with the class. This would only be shared within our classroom, to be passed around and then I would keep it in my personal file of my Holocaust research. I am not sure of the legalities or protocol when using material found of the Internet, but I want to make sure that I have your permission to use your material in this manner. At any rate, once again, I thank you for your fine work and I want you to know I gained much from reading your material.

I look forward to hearing back from you,

Cecelia Thiel Lapham cowpeper@whidbey.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hi! I express not a pure kind of enthusiasm, after having browsed your site, but enthusiasm that your views and ways of explaining things ring true to me. So far, I've read "What I Learned from Auschwitz" and "Who Are You?" and seem to hear my own comments reflected in yours - or vice-versa. I'm a university student in North Carolina, taking a Holocaust class in which we discuss Holocaust-oriented films and novels by Holocaust survivors...doing some research for a paper, and for personal reasons - I know I've learned something, or at least been quite intellectually and spiritually provoked, by my experiences in this class. We are to write a brief summary of our thoughts on each novel (by Jerzy Kosinski, Elie Wiesel, Tadeusz Borowski, Jorge Semprun, Andre Schwartz-Bart, and more), and I make quick notes referring to particularly provocative sections as I read... And, like I said, as I read your thoughts and conclusions, especially on the aforementioned pages of your site, it was as if I was re-reading my own thoughts on the subjects...which I find fascinating. Almost every point you've made, especially the more cynical (or is it perhaps just less superficial?) ones, I've pondered on my own. A recurring theme (I wonder if my instructor is getting sick of it) in my papers is that yes, I see my fellow classmates' sympathetic, intellectual nods after reading of the atrocities of the Holocaust, then I see them leave class and become entirely absorbed in their everyday, privileged, blind existence... I myself try to avoid sounding like a self-proclaimed savior, but do hope and plan to travel the world doing creative, activist-awareness work, probably in photography... I can't read horrifying (and true) things, or walk out of a dark-yet-inspirational movie (Schindler's List), then be happy continuing my mechanized existence, without constantly thinking about the other billions of world citizens who are/were starving or being tortured...in the Holocaust or anything else. I hope I haven't bored you terribly. I did find your page fascinating (so far, anyway) and would be excited to hear back from you - it's an unexpected treat to find someone whose thoughts, especially on such a deep and ponderous subject, sound like my own.

- Valerie Bruchon

Dear Mr. Wallace:

We are a print based magazine called "Stories Retold" We are a monthly magazine and print 500 copies. We are based in Gurgaon, India.

We would like to reprint Primo Levi's article titled "selection".

Please advise your terms and conditions for the same.

Many thanks and best regards


Manoj Sharma reporter@vsnl.net

Hi Jonathan,

I don't know why I'm so interested in the topic of the Holocaust. Maybe for the same reason I'm interested in shark attacks, and natural disasters. But I can't name a reason for any of those fascinations.

I think what you wrote about hope is beautiful and disturbing. I think God exists and did exist during the occupation. I don't think God let the persecution happen, and I don't think God has the power to stop or interfere with human behavior (shark attacks or natural disasters). I think we are a science experiment for God in a way. But I was brought up Catholic, and I've been rebelling since the third grade. My beliefs change as I grow older and somewhat wiser. However I still don't know what the truth is, and won't until I die. That's the most honest belief I have regarding God and religion.

Thank you for the web site.

Take care,

Meg megatall@hotmail.com