June 2009

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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,

I often read and usually enjoy "The Ethical Spectacle." I was, however, disappointed by your decision to insert a rebuttal to Peter Bearse's article on gay marriage.

You are perhaps correct that the future will look back upon the current discussion, and opinions against gay marriage, as fossils from a former time. Certainly the right of all citizens to have equal rights and protection under the law of the land would indicate that gays should have the rights and privileges of marriage.

Yourself say that you would like to have conservative voices on "The Ethical Spectacle." And I think that the "conservative" viewpoint, which represents no small segment of the US electorate, should have its voice(s) heard.

But inserting a rebuttal, I think you basically undo the welcome that you had expressed.

By all means, you should reject material you find not up to snuff for whatever reason. But if you are going to present an article espousing a particular viewpoint, it seems to me that you should let that article succeed or fail on its own merits. Using the publisher's bully pulpit to rebuke the argument smacks of insecurity -- worrying that others might think you hold the opinion espoused in the piece -- or, worse, intolerance.

I think a better alternate would have been to await -- or even solicit -- contrary opinions and then include the best-written and best-reasoned pieces.

On an unrelated note, I agree that Fitzgerald is overrated. But I also think "Moby Dick" is great.

All the best,
Frenk Delacroix

Dear Mr. Bearse and Mr. Wallace:

With regard not only to Mr. Bearse's article "On 'Gay marriage'", and Mr. Wallace's rebuttal, but beyond them to the issue itself, not only that of private behavior but of public law:

Same-sex couples are not different-sex couples.

Allow that obvious biological truth to be begged, and all else might as well be conceded.

And there is no "civil right" to insinuate a falsehood into law, such as the biological falsehood that same-sex couples are different-sex couples.

Should we then insinuate that falsehood into law on a weaker ground, that same-sex couples are somehow equivalent to different-sex couples?

Would it not be a stronger case to make, that engaging in mating behavior with members of the same sex suggests a failure of judgment?

Should we then insinuate that falsehood into law at the insistence of individuals manifesting such failure of judgment?

And if such behavior were involuntary, as is (somewhat astonishingly) claimed by many "gays" themselves, at least when expedient, would not such involuntary neurological phenomenon causing such obvious disruption of reproductive capacity rightfully be considered a disease, and a very serious disease, one that would be fatal to our nation and our species if become, and even encouraged to become, widespread?


John Kennard


I was researching military tribunals to find out where I really stand. Initially I was in favor of them because we have used them many times during major conflicts. However, after reading your article, I think differently.

First, I want decent treatment for captured American soldiers, spies, and even saboteurs. I would want them to be given a fair trial. We can't summarily execute our enemies and expect better treatment for our own troops.

Second, the comments by Justice Rutledge (and his quote from Thomas Paine) regarding tribunals after WWII.

"That door is dangerous to open. I will have no part in opening it. For once it is ajar, even for enemy belligerents, it can be pushed back wider for others, perhaps ultimately for all." (-Rutledge)

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself." (-Paine)

Rutledge is saying we can't exact one form of justice for our enemies and expect different treatment from them in return. They are both saying that once such a dangerous precedent is set, that it may ultimately creep into our own society and be applied to us.

Great article, very persuasive, thanks.

I also liked your Right to Drive story. Abject absurdness backed by constitution waving reminds me of the gun control debate. Is that really what you had in mind? If not, it's a really good analogy.

The "alternate future" approach reminded me immediately of "A Nice Morning Drive" by Richard Foster. This story was the basis for the Rush song "Red Barchetta".

I don't know if you've read this story or not. It was written in 1973, a time when numerous automotive safety regulations were passed into law. It is an amazingly prophetic story and worth reading.



I drive a little VW Karmann Ghia. I think of this story frequently while driving home between Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades.

-Mark Wells

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I've just discovered your Auschwitz Alphabet and read in it. Very interesing! In one chapter I want to offer you a correction. August Hirt was responsable for the dead of 29 jewish women and 57 jewish men, all selected by members of the SS-Ahnenerbe in Auschwitz. I know it exactly because I have researched about that crime and identified all 86 victims. Till now the result is only published in german and in polish language. If you are interested you can find hints in the internet at my website www.die-namen-der-nummern.de (also informations in english).

Friendly regards
Hans-Joachim Lang, Germany

Dear Mr. Wallace:

You ought to be interested in my little 1900-word moralist tract and primer _The Uncivil War_ which I webbed in 2003 at


and which rejects more peripheral approaches to morality, moral philosophy, ethics or meta-ethics, focusing instead on morality itself, and the implications of the reality of morality, both moral necessities, those things which must be in order for morality to be, and moral consequences, those things which must be since morality is, all in the hardly metaphorical context of the war against responsibility and more.

One can hardly have a more rigorous or normative moral theory, or one which arises more naturally and logically from the subject itself, and indeed little of it is original, although seldom have all the principles involved been so systematically and concisely gathered in one place (and some of it, as far as I can tell, is original).

It took nineteen years to write, and at one point ran over eleven thousand words, but was honed to the maximum I could achieve (I may have over-done that a bit).

It can be regarded too as a work of moral(ist) fundamentalism: Why should the theocrats have all the fun, eh?

Free downloads are provided, both the zipped Web-pages and a PDF.

And a Lulu.com POD paperback edition has also recently been set up and linked to.


John Kennard