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:

A major case before the United States Supreme Court concerned the issue of Affirmative Action. The court's ruling limits the use of race in assigning students to public schools. The purpose of affirmative action in the United States was to create government programs to overcome the effects of past societal discrimination by allocating jobs and resources to members of specific groups, such as minorities and women. There is no question that past societal discrimination occured in the United States and perhaps the only appropriate remedy at the time was affirmative action. However, this policy has outlived its purpose. Anywhere you look in the United States, minorities are well represented. Besides, there is a limit to punishing people for the sins of their forefathers. It is unfair to award preference based on race when all other qualifications are equal. This not only undermines the means to determining the best candidates but also serves to de-legitimize the accomplishments of someone who was given preference based on race. Those opposed to affirmative action look to section one of the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution of the United States:

Amendment XIV

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws

The minorties of this country have been given enough time to allow for the "cream to rise to the top" and now must take their equal position along side of the majority. The time is long overdue to stop rewarding underachieving individuals because of their race and start rewarding overachieving individuals because of their accomplishments. To do otherwise, would mean denying the very principles set forth in the fourteenth amendment.

Joe Bialek

Dear Dr. Tenembaum,

Regarding your essay on tolerance. Though I can certainly see your reasoning, that tolerance somehow implies, in a connotative sense, the repugnance of the object to be tolerated and therefore anything that must be tolerated must be somehow repugnant, wrong, or, as you put it, "not equal," this is not always the case.

Stairs are often intolerable to a person in a wheelchair. A person of a certain race or creed is intolerable to a bigot. A peanut butter sandwich is intolerable to someone with a peanut allergy. In all of these cases, the intolerability lies with the perceiver, and is projected onto the object.

A peanut is perfectly fine to someone without an allergy. The same goes for the stairs. In any race or creed there are good and bad people, and only God knows who they are. It's projection.

The center of what makes something "intolerable" is the *perception*, physical or emotional, real or imagined, of harm or disrespect. But the source of the affront always lies within the beholder, not the thing which causes affront.

Even in cases such as violent crimes or defamation, where we as a society have discussed and clearly agreed upon those things which cause us affront, the cause of such affront is still us, no matter how justifiable or righteous it may be. The harm is what is caused by the criminal, not the affront. We are always the cause of our opinions. The emotions and animus that crime stirs are simply our own.

Therefore, if the thing to be tolerated is not considered a reasonable affront, the tolerator can be and usually is branded weak, either in skin or character. The stigma is in direct proportion to the frivolity of the supposed affront, inversely proportional to its basis in reality. A tolerant bigot is still a bigot.

Such an oyster can make a lovely pearl though. He is still virtuous to choose to "bear with" things rather than choose unnecessary conflict. In the end, the only cure for bigotry is association with those who are hated, and such a person has to tolerate them to do that. What other course is there? That which leads to virtue *is* virtue. We must be willing to tolerate those who would believe themselves above us, for the good of all.

We must never, however, accept it where it isn't warranted. Tolerance is not acceptance. We tolerate bigotry, but we try to change the mind that clings to it, for the good of all.

To be certain, tolerance is not always a virtue. There are things that cannot be tolerated. When we can agree on those things in great numbers, or physical facts substantiate our grievances, then tolerance is no longer virtuous. We do have a criminal justice system and I believe there is such a thing as a just war, and it is precisely because tolerance is not always a virtue.

That which cannot be tolerated is a crime, but for every other condition, tolerance, restraint, and temperance are virtues.


Russ Hansen

Hi Jonathan I'm reading your article on leadership and wanted to say how much I am enjoying it! Thanks

Greg Londt