Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

My way of imposing meaning on chaos after September 11 was to volunteer. First I drove for the Red Cross, for whom I also spent a day working in Ground Zero and several more in the warehouse at Pier 94, a huge facility for the bereaved families. (I now know how to operate a pallet jack.) A few days ago, I started a new assignment which leverages my law background: I will be serving as a guide at Pier 94, working with families to access the whole range of benefits offered by the public and private agencies represented there. However, I plan to continue to spend some time driving and in the warehouse, becaused those activities are useful and satisfying as well.

It has now been seven weeks since the attacks and the fires are still burning in Ground Zero and they are still finding bodies. On the loading dock at the Red Cross Respite Center No. 1, north of the site, we watched as police vans with flashing lights drove towards the Pile. They returned half an hour later in stately procession, and everyone saluted: they were bringing newly discovered bodies to the temporary morgue in an inflated dome opposite us.

Another night at 2 a.m., I and another driver made the laundry run to the two Respite Centers (the other one is south of the Pile in the Marriott Financial Center). We took a circuitous route out, past World Trade Center Five, a standing ruin in a field of rubble, likely to be torn down soon. This was the building where I stopped each night to browse in the Borders bookstore or to grab a bite at Sbarro's on the way home from Newark. Sbarro's lost two stores to terrorism last year, the other in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. I've seen many ruins in my life, including Knossos and the Parthenon, but never one where I used to shop and eat. Somewhere in my mind the concourse still exists where I can search for a Melanie CD for $5.99, buy a battery for my watch or hurriedly dine on the penne a la vodka.

Life right now is a braid of grief and hope. Driving gives an opportunity for quiet contemplation, but the Pier 94 warehouse is a community of people whose company I particularly enjoy. It is run by the upstate owner of a garden center, one of the best natural managers I have ever met. She is assisted by a young Englishman who came here right after September 11 to help. My co-workers include two other lawyers, a retired bar owner, a salesperson for a cable station, a physical therapist and an unemployed construction worker. The best day there is one where we pass a little time talking and get to unload many trucks. Physical work is hopeful and thus a palliative for grief.

I can be reached as always at jw@bway.net.

Jonathan Wallace

Year Zero
Dear Jonathan:

Thanks for your piece, "No Breast-beating"...there are already groups around my neck of the woods starting a "CAMPAIGN TO STOP THE WAR" and decrying "chauvinist war hysteria." They want us to just be nicer to the terrorists instead.

Dear Mr. Wallace,

On September 11, after I had sufficiently recovered by emotional balance, I did as I always do after a shocking national tragedy has struck, I began to search for reliable information on the attacks, and the reactions of individuals I have come to trust and respect for their honesty and ethical approaches to political and social issues of the day. Having recently found 'Ethical Spectacle,' I remembered that I had been thus impressed with writings I had seen there.

I am writing to thank you for the information and perspectives you have written and published here on the terrorist attacks, and subsequent pieces expressing your thoughts and views. You have been a great help to me in this dreadful time, and I am most appreciative.

Best regards,

Beth Casey thor@thevision.net

Dear Mr. Gingrich:

I read your article Don't Promote Hate. I thank you so much for having written it, and thank Mr. Wallace for publishing it.

This evening Congressman Tancredo (R-Colorado) said that the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon have nothing to do with our foreign policy or our support for Israel. Members of Congress, the broadcast media, and our Federal government are determined to avoid the truthful answer to "why." Most in each of these three groups insist on telling us that the attacks were perpetrated out of envy and hatred of our way of life. They must think we are all stupid. If the reasons they give were the cause of the attacks, why on earth didn't the terrorists go after other countries or cities having lifestyles more liberal than those in the United States? Why didn't they select a country or territory less able to retaliate than the U.S.?

No, the truth is "they" are not going to consider what I believe are the real reasons because they don't want to change their policies, don't want to admit that they might be wrong, and want to use any excuse possible to attack not only Afghanistan but also Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, and other Arab countries, as urged by Benjamin Netanyahu on CNN, MSNBC, and to Members of Congress in a closed session.

Please note as well that CNN, which aired in 1999 an interview with Osama bin Laden, to my knowledge, has not shown it since September 11. Their viewers would see clearly that Osama bin Laden has stated his objections to U.S. foreign policy, specifically the occupation of Saudi Arabia, the treatment of Palestinians, the sanctions against and bombing of Iraq. He has stated that he didn't go to Afghanistan to fight to get rid of Russia to have another power occupy Saudi Arabia. He is opposed to the monarchies and opposed to Saddam Hussein. I have the same objections to U.S. foreign policy and so do most peace activists.

I would also like to inform you that I participated in the anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C., on September 29. Contrary to the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, etc., it was a massive and a peaceful demonstration. There was no conflict with the police except for an incident when approximately 1,500 peace activists at Dupont Circle tried to join us at Freedom Plaza and the police interfered with their attempts to do so. There were also less than 25 protests against us by pro-government supporters.

Thanks, again, for your humanity and decency, characteristics not often displayed by opinion writers these days.

Betty Molchany, J.D. molchany@shentel.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thanks for running my piece, Just Barely, last month.

Re In the Valley of the Black Pig, Hobbes was not wrong. Civilization's job is to protect its members from being killed by outsiders or other members, not to protect those outside the group. Civilization, like communism, doesn't "really" happen until its universal.

Apropos of Anthrax and Authority, I see you and I share the same ambition: to be George Orwell when we grow up. Politics and the English Language is the most important essay of the 20th century and Notes on Nationalism comes close.

Orwell treats the same theme somewhere writing on the blitz he says "above me a perfectly civilized man is flying around, trying to kill me" and something like "when I see we abhor a simple murder but have no problem with people dropping a ton of explosives on a residential area, I really think our planet is a place where other beings have deposited their lunatics."

Sad that essays are out of style.

Also we share from the czar of Homeland Security an apprehension of the term "homeland" which has totalitarian overtones. I should add I am also made nervous by the term "czar". Many Americans -- perhaps yourself even -- are here because their grandparents fled one or more of those.

As a libertarian, I dissent from the celebration of selfishness encouraged by the Ayn Rand groupies. (I do agree however that she is underappreciated as a social critic/philosopher, more the former.) Selfishness is OK but not some mystical virtue or the better part of life. (Selfishness, -- or rather the desire for self-fulfillment -- is however inevitable which is why it cannot be overlooked.)


Matt Hogan matthewhnj@aol.com


I ran into your column via therighter.com. Dr. Thompson notes that you are an antigunner, but have some good ideas. Pardon me for any breach of protocol, but ----------

In Anthrax and Authority, you wrote: "I bought Cipro even before the first anthrax case. Yes, I admit it. I wasn't eager to mention it here but I couldn't honestly write an article about anthrax without telling you that."

I appreciate your honesty.

I fail to see the difference in you buying Cipro and me buying a gun. To take responsibility to defend oneself from bad guys spreading anthrax or bad guys spreading violent behavior appears, to me, to be the same rational behavior, just a difference in the choice of tools to meet the difference in the threat.

"I had the opportunity to obtain a ten day supply of the drug for myself, my wife and my stepson and daughter-in-law, and I did so. None of us have taken any of it, but I feel more secure having it."

As "I feel more secure, having it, " having my tools of self defense.

Jim James, Ed.D. jjames@state.wy.us

Hello Jonathan,

You have been into the jaws of Hell. This is an invention of our own making. The disease of the right wing of religion has hit Nw York like a plague. What makes the event so unsetting is that it has finally come to our shores. We are in the war zone just like those in many parts of the world live every day. The fierce wrath of a people gone mad through the irrationality of religion has taken its dues upon us. The perservasion of the value of human lfe is what is at stake. Revenge may be sweet, but if we get caught up in that loop, we will only contribute to the discredit of humanity. The right wing elemenet is like a cancer on the face of humanity. The war is the the battle of the minds of men. Primitive thinking is what fuels the outrage. We are now recipents of our mental inventions. The desttruction of the human body is only the superficial factor in all of this wrangling. Most of all, for deep concern is the destruction of the human mind. The drama is created in the mind and fostered upon the stage of human existence. Our greatest enemy is ourselves. To find those who did this horrible thing and destroy them is not emough. What is needed is the purging of the human mind. Without this, only will sustain in time, the equation. It will rise again. The challenge is to take on the enemy of the mind. But many are asleep. May we find our way into light.

Until now,

Fred M. Fariss count@infi.net

Dear Jonathan:

I'm just now reading A Hard Rain. It's been impossible to use the telephones today or get online. You are always most eloquent but never moreso than in recounting your experience on a most horrible day. I wish I could summon the same eloquence because I, too, had my brush with disaster this morning.

I was in the Pentagon parking lot when the plane hit it. Sometimes I take a shortcut through the parking lot when the traffic pace is too slow as I make my way up from Woodbrige, Virginia on Shirley Highway, past the Pentagon and on to The Freedom Forum in Arlington. Unlike you, my mind has more or less shut down to rational thought and there is no hope of eloquence, at least not yet.

I am thankful you were not in or under those buildings and -- God help me -- that I wasn't on the wrong side of the Pentagon this morning. I really don't want to think much about tomorrow.

Paul McMasters pmcmasters@freedomforum.org

Dear Mr. Wallace:

You wrote in A Hard Rain:

I'm left with a few mixed, jangling thoughts. As I wrote in last month's Spectacle, why bother building the National Missile Defense, a classic example of fighting the last war, when the next war--the current war-- will be fought using our own planes as bombs?

I read your first hand account, and I offer my thoughts and prayers. If you don't believe we need missile defense, I suggest you read the article below. The tyrants of the world are not acquiring/developing missiles with ever increasing capability to launch satellites to provide better satellite TV service to their people. Best wishes.


Steve Todd Steve.Todd@trw.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I don't think these people, who represent the recent Muellah (which is the arabic term for terror attack), and are part of the Islamic Jihad, are Dylan fans. Anyway I hope you, your family, and all of your friends are doing alright. Yesterday our building had to be evacuated for a bomb threat. I'm glad to say that the situation was nothing more than an idle threat and that everyone is alright. I can't imagine anyone finding it funny to play a prank or a hoax such as this. These idiots need to leave the comedy to comedians. I hope we get all the bastards that caused all this harm. And I really hope that people in this country don't sink to the level of these douche bags. The biggest danger right now to the American people in toto is the American people. The farther from the Actual scene of damage you go the more that people who are distanced from this have time to think about these events in a somewhat objective manner, and when less intelligent people do this, their ignorances get in the way of them thinking clearly.

Hatred is contagious. This destructive action has not only left a crater in the island of Manhatten, but has left a crater in the minds and hearts of all americans. But that doesn't mean that people should adopt a vigilante style mindset and take their aggressive angry emotions out on any body else. I think this is going to be a tough time for every one in the next couple of years, but I especially think it's going to be extremely tough on all the American Muslims who have immigrated from Arabic nations. I think that suspicious people will have to be inconvenienced and I don't think it's wrong to profile people if they are suspicious looking. But to profile people just for the sake of racial discrimination is and always should be wrong. However, right about now any and all precautions about peculiar behavior among people must be adhered to and should be paramount to any Racist jusrisprudence.

In some ways this is a good thing. Well I'm at least an optimist, and out of every negative action, something postive can be learned. In some ways this is a wake up call to most Americans, at least in the tristate area. People my generation and one generation up and one generation back from me (I'm 30 years old rigt now), have all been living here in America in a rather affluent time in history. We have all had a relatively calm existence, most if not every thing we could all possibly desire is and was ours for the taking, most of us I won't say were spoiled, but were living in the lap of luxury. Sure we all have had our share of hard times, I personally have had three near death experiences and was close to my fourth on Tuesday. But who out there could truly tell me that their life has not been worthy of all that was at their disposal, egregiously we eke out our existence and we all have achieved an independence, where our lives are not paid for by anyone else but ourselves.

Tuesdays events is a Wake Up Call to all. In our lifetimes we have not had any kind of major conflict, unless you want to call Desert Storm a major conflict, but who out there felt personally in danger of losing his/her life from that Conflagration. My Grandfather fought in WWII, one of my uncles died in the holocaust, another served in the Korean war. Not to compare or contrast different situations in different times. No one that I know has experienced an event of this magnitude or intensity. And as a result I sincerely hope that people take this as a Reality Check of not only their own lives, but of the Earth we live upon and the air we breathe. This silly "Sex & the City" mentality (you know this self fulfilling narcissism, where you drench your insides with as many chemicals as possible and laugh and make fun of the rest of the world to the benefit of those around you and mostly your self, where others mean close to nothing) that has permeated everyone I know; I hope will be pushed to the farthest recesses of people's minds. The only thing that kind of mentality breads is mindless egotism of the worst degree.

Kindness is the truest Weapon of hatred. I do not, never have, and never will understand hatred. Is it any more wrong to hate an individual who is capable of hatred? The one thing I do know is that Hatred is contagious and I hope that those of you out there that read this will learn to contain their anger and supplant some kindness where the anger is growing. Because sometimes life is not just about you. I know that it's definitely not about me. I'm not saying that my life is meaningless or unimportant, I'm just saying that in the social context of this mass of existence, there are other people and we must be tolerant of those people out there who express kindness, but those of us who know not what kindness is or means will be deemed my enemy and should be deemed your enemy too. Make no mistake about it there are people out there in this world who would cut off their right tit or their left nut to be in the position that any of us are in. Yes they are jealous. So if you value your existence as I value mine we will work hard to root out any who are unkind and love hatred, and we should all defend the freedoms and liberties we all work hard for.

I truly wish there were anyone in office other than Big W. right now. Could you imagine how F.D.R. or Teddy Roosevelt, or Truman, Johnson, Hoover, not to mention Grover Cleveland, or Humphrey, go down the list of all the great presidents (none of which were in our lifetime), could you imagine how they would handle these events. I can and I wish they were in power right now. I would like to believe what Big W. has to say, but the guy has not uttered one word sincerely from his heart. That speech he made a couple of nights ago; how many people did it take to write that speech, it's like some bad joke that I don't know the punchline to. This guy is a puppet. When have you ever heard of a Vice President being more secured than a President in a time of need in this country. During his speech I had this feeling that Big W. was going to all of sudden smile from ear to ear and proclaim:"...and I still Can't believe I'm the President, can you?" I'll tell you one thing this war is not only going to cost this country lots of money, but all of us will be paying. I for one never wanted that $300, and I'am ready to give it back. So to end this extremely long message I will close by saying remember Kindness is the true Weapon.

I wish you, your family and all of your friends the best wishes good luck.

Your Friend

Brett Lewis Brett_Lewis/ASCAP@ascap.com


I recently received this essay, attributed to you. First off, I must say this is very well thought out and cuts very close to the roots of this situation. The media has been portraying Bin Laden as a rabid madman and ignoring what a brilliant planner he must be. The idea of a "fundamentalist superpower" is chilling, and the more we deny the possibility, the more likely it becomes.

I know things must be pretty rough out there these days. I wish you the strength to deal with what must be going on.

Patrick Hester lokeecoyote@hotmail.com

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your essay No Breast-beating. What do you propose we do to "live"?

Perhaps you will send some of your more recently written pieces.

Consensus would agree on the goal: make the us (and the world) safe from terrorism however we are not in agreement re; the means. Will military action hopefully designed to root out Bin Laden and remove from power those who would harm us, succeed? Doesn't the violence have the potential for feeding support for our enemies?

Phil Schulman pjschulman@worldnet.att.net

Pastor, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of St Thomas- St John, USVI

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thank you for your writings. Downbeat though they may be, they have the ring of truth. Evidently your job is to observe your experience and your reflections on your experience and to report them to the rest of us. You are doing a great job.

Bill Meacham bmeacham@bmeacham.com http://www.bmeacham.com

Hey, I never realized this guy was the type of slob who just dumps his trash on the sidewalk. Take me off the list please! Tim Benham timb@defcen.gov.au

Hi John Thanks for the Black Pig. I got to this bit and had to write.

You wrote:

"What does a helpless spectactor to insane violence do?"

I have been a broadcaster most of my adult life. I made it my duty, as far as possible, never to allow my personal perspective to undermine the objectivity of what i was attempting to report. The only real gift a journalist can give is the ability for the audience to decide for themselves on the best possible evidence.

To do that we have to be spectators and tell the unvarnished facts as far as we can and when we can't tell facts we have to say that we don't know because otherwise we are shielding people from stuff that they may need very much to know.

But never underestimate the power of the spectator. A friend of mine was a cop who found himself in a situation where he witnessed several thugs beating up a fellow officer. he could have charged to the rescue and being totally outnumbered, been beaten himself or do what he did. Witness, take notes, descriptions, details. When he faced the men in court he delivered the lot to jail with the clarity of his testimony. He was nevertheless tortured by his conscience for many years after that because it i counter-instinctive in every way.

But unless we learn not to act on our most primitive instincts, we will be forever trapped in the gyre.

i remember clearly the climax of the Harrison Ford movie The Witness, the bad guy is threatening extreme violence and all the hero has to protect him are the Amish who will not raise a hand to help. But they gather instead to witness what is about to happen, many of them. The message is very clear; we are not afraid of you, we will let you be whoever you are and then will tell the world about it. you cannot kill us all and you cannot intimidate us.

That is what spectators do. We live in a world of mass witness where there is always a camera pointed at whatever is happening. We can all witness, we can all give testimony and we can all be not afraid. That is not nothing.

While we are on poetry, here is something I wrote a couple of years ago when all hell broke loose in East Timor. I haven't changed my mind.



Perhaps they lie
Among the bones and rotting meat
The open shells of souls new hatched.
Perhaps they lie
Amid the smoke and glass and broken streets
Of Dili, Suai, Maliana, Bobonaro

Perhaps they are the rapists and thieves
The unsuspected killers
The cannibals and parasites that feasted off their own
Caught in the twisted gears of fate
And slaughtered not for their crimes
But the sin of marking a paper
In the wrong place.

But not the woman cooking meal over a low fire
Not the old man wishing for a peaceful end
And surely not the children

The generals in their uniforms
Smooth brown, smooth green, machete-sharp
Smooth brown voices from behind dead eyes
Say smooth green words they think we want to hear
As if between their indifference and our need
Enough saying can make them true
Uniforms, voices, words, dead eyes
Smooth brown, smooth green
The colour of shit and rotting meat
Perhaps they are drowning in rivers of blood
Perhaps they lie

And what do we do but shout "stop!"
Shout stop to those who cannot hear
Who cannot hear and do not care
Who do not care and do not dare to stop
Shout stop and wring our hands
Write letters, write poems
Witness, shame and shun
It is not much indeed, but not nothing
Not nothing, but not much indeed

When their blood soaked blades are grown
Too burdened with death to lift again
When the second to last bullet has flown
And the cries of the dying die into silence
Standing ankle deep in blood
Wreathed in smoke
Retching on the stink
Ears filled with the sound of dogs feasting on the dead
Will that have satisfied their appetite for bitter disappointment?

And what then?
Perhaps they will lie
Perhaps just deny
Perhaps, confronted with the ghosts
Go mad
To be mad, and then go mad
Is a hard cold sanity.

Perhaps they will shrug and shift the blame
To the brown, green land, saying
We smell it in the air
We read it in the smoke
We hear it in the dog snarls
In a long dead tongue we speak its name
Which means
Earl Mardle earl.mardle@kn.com.au http://www.kn.com.au

Dear Jonathan:

In In the Valley of the Black Pig, you wrote:

Who is the master of the still stars and of the flaming door? Not God, but the Second Law of Thermodynamics. What else can still a star?-- On September 11, there was nothing in that crystalline blue autumn sky but decaying particles and hijacked 767's arcing toward murder.

I don't have any words to comment on this beautiful lament. Thank you for writing it, though.

-- Jamie McCarthy jamie@mccarthy.org

Dear Mr. Wallace --

As I recall, you are an atheist. For my part, I fall somewhere between "christian" and "agnostic."

Lewis, and father Andrew Greeley (see "God Game," a work of fiction, in which the protagonist is granted Godhood over a world in which all the inhabitants have free will), have pretty well answered the question of why God "permits" horror and evil as far as I'm concerned. I suspect those answers aren't good enough for you, and I don't have any better ones after five-plus thousand deaths. But I wanted to say a couple of things anent In the Valley of the Black Pig.

Mainly -- from where I sit, your sudden wakefulness to a life in your opinion not-well-spent ("a law degree and a life asleep") looks like God doing her best to make lemons out of lemonade -- guiding your eyes and your heart in a way you were prepared and willing to go.

You don't, apparently (obviously), have to believe in God to be a mensch -- you're managing the latter quite well without the former. On the other hand... by the degree of heart-pain which you are enduring, by your conviction that you need to be contributing more than you are, and by your apparent resolution to act on your conviction... it's pretty clear to me that _God_ believes in _you_.

Examine your heart, neighbor -- obviously your creator whoever-that-is put some pretty good stuff in there. I have no idea what you're going to find, of course; that's your problem. But if you find something there to do which brings you joy -- helping with the death certificates, helping Legal Aid, helping the soldiers with their legal problems, other stuff which calls on your humanity but doesn't also need a law degree -- then you're doing what God wants. In the sane mind, joy is God's reward for right action. (You don't have to believe it. You're going to get paid anyway.)

-- Phil, who is sometimes a Christian.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Your approach is much like Israel's. Assassinate Arabs who disagree with you and lead oppositions, even though you could easily capture same and have a trial. Yes, capturing Usama bin Laden could be difficult. But it is wrong to kill him, wrong to kill innocent Afghanis in the process. America has done more killing than any of the other countries. We must stop. Betty Molchany JD molchany@shentel.net

Dea Mr. Wallace:

Re What War Will Be Like:

The points are on the mark. The analogies of WW2 are very misleading. I hope to send you a more detailed set of comments and thoughts after Rosh Hashanna but for now I did want to thank you for the communicating some important thoughts via the Web and email.

J.D. Abolins jda-ir@pluto.njcc.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

My son, Nick Griffin, who you may not know, forwarded your wonderful description of the horror in NYC. It was very vivid, but I am writing to tell you that as someone who lived in Afghanistan over forty years ago, I immediately decried the US funding the so-called "Freedom Fighters" after the Soviet invasion. I stood alone among my friends and Afghans in this country. We knew then that these were tribal leaders, who were drug trafficers among other attributes. Then, as you say, they used our weapons against us and trained terrorists all over the world. Glad someone pays attention.

Thanks for your article. Our daughter has just moved into an apt. on E.10th last week. Some reception! Carol Griffin cgriff9305@mindspring.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever…" Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XVIII, 1782. ME 2:227

Although Jefferson was here referring to slavery, I think he would not mind stretching his quote to cover some of the more unsavory aspects of American foreign policy.

When a country such as ours, which was built upon its' opposition to tyranny and a support for the rights of man, so ignores its' principles as to not only turn a blind eye to tyranny and oppression but to actively foster it, it is only a matter of time before the chickens come home to roost.

Throughout the Middle East, and indeed the world, corrupt and brutal regimes depend on the U.S. for the money and weapons to keep their "huddled masses yearning to breath free" under the iron boot of repression.

When the kings of Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Kuwait need weapons to cow their subjects where do they turn but to the "arsenal of democracy". Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, the Sha of Iran, King Faud of Saudi Arabia, Ferdinand Marco of the Philippines… name a dictator anywhere on earth and he probably either got, or still gets, his weapons and political support from the United States.

If a democracy interferes with American profits or political aims, we do not hesitate to over throw it. Guatemala, Iran, Chili and Nicaragua all know what it is to think that democracy will protect them from America.

We have become a nation of freedom fighters, we fight freedom where ever it rears its ugly head.

When it comes to Israel, we justify our support for that rouge nation by claiming that it is the "only democracy in the area" and then help to prop up kings and dictators all over the region. When we "rescued" Kuwait from Hussein, the people of that country begged us to allow them to form a democracy but instead we returned the King to power.

When the King of Saudi Arabia or Jordan dies, we send our top diplomats to mourn their passing and to legitimize the succession of their heirs. "The King is dead, long live the King!"

As a wedding photographer I have been present at one of the great road marks of hundreds of peoples’ lives. Christian, Jew, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist I've done them all and while they may wear different clothes, eat different food and dance different dances they are all, at heart, the same.

As a graduate student in history and a lifelong student of the human condition I have found that the things that unite us are far more important than the things that separate us. We all love our families and life and will not willingly give them up. People of all races and religions cling to life with a power that awes us but there are limits to what the human spirit will endure.

Despite Patton’s famous remark that "no one ever won a war by dying for their country" we all know that our freedoms were paid for by the blood of patriots willing to die rather than suffer injustice.

How then can we not understand when people, pushed beyond all endurance, strike back?

In the popular movie "Independence Day" we all cheered when the old drunken pilot redeems himself and gets some revenge by flying his plane into the Aliens space ship that was destroying his civilization. "Pay back's a mother!" he shouts as he gives up his life for his family and his world.

We would do well to ask why other people hate us so much instead of beating our breast and vowing revenge. I fear that we have sown the wind and are doomed to reap the whirlwind.

John Rickman rickmanjb@earthlink.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

In the Valley of the Black Pig was a real fine piece. Bet you wish you had a better finish though, huh? I think we all feel that way.


Johnny fromjohnny@ameritech.net

Dear Jonathan:

So glad to see that you are OK. It continues to astound me to see how far reaching the effects of yesterdays attacks are on such a personal level. I spent much of yesterday morning tracking down family and friends: one sister and 2 brothers-in-law in Manhattan, another brother-in-law in the air flying out of Chicago, and a friend who works for AMEX in the World Trade Center complex. Luckily all are alright, but probably like most New Yorkers, we have friends who have still not heard from spouses and siblings who were in the area. I will never forget the range of emotions I experienced yesterday, from sadness, shock and worry, to the determination of a friend of mine who is a Navy test pilot, who spent last night cleaning his guns in case he is called in to action, and wants to build 3 towers, twice as big as the 2 that collapsed, in their place. I wonder what it will be like to see the changed skyline the next time I make a trip into Brooklyn. I just always assumed that those buildings would be a part of the landscape for my entire lifetime.

Again, glad you're safe.

Joe Gross joe_at_weber@hotmail.com

Shame on you.

You should get down on your knees and thank God for Mayor Guiliani, I wish every major city in the country had a Mayor like him.

Bonnie Brinker bonbon13@tampabay.rr.com

Dear Mr. Walace:

I couldn't agree more with your point of view. Feeling much the same.

Pilar L. louisiamaria@aol.com

Dear Jonathan,

In this time of heated rhetoric and falsehood now embraced as common-sense consensus, I am frightened for liberty, democracy, freedom and individual prerogative unmediated by tyranical interloping in the guise of national security and with the popularly moderated excuse that fear justifies tyrany.

I am a commoner. I have no pedigree but the one the constitution of the United States recognizes (DOES NOT GRANT me!!). I have abandoned one faith to embrace this one: that all men are created equal. If a holy war is called for to advance this proposition, I am its soldier against all enemies, foreign and domestic. For the flag that represents such idealism to be used as a decoration for other politcal goals is nauseating. For Goerge W. Bush to partake in such practices demeans the flag and the nation. To kill innocent citizens in another nation on the pretext of hunting a mass murderer, bypassing all available legal remedies (however much perceived as inadequate ) is an act of state terrorism. How can we be compelled (under threat of jingoistically aggitated domestic retribution) to support state murder?

Ben G. Price bengprice@aol.com

Dear Jonathan,

In the Valley of the Black Pig was certainly downbeat, as you said it would be, but it served Yeats well. There is a poetry to its tone that makes your state of mind very accessible to the reader.

It must be difficult to work in the area of the annihilation. I am sure that you will be changed for the better, no matter the method. Your yearning to be necessary should be somewhat assuaged by your posting of these dispatches. The journalist (and I mean the true definition of the word--media-generated talking heads aside) is always necessary in times of extreme stress and transition. Posterity will be served well by this and the others in the series, as well as your good work with the Spectacle.

Sincerely, Peter Stanislaw pstanislaw@peoplepc.com

Dear Jonathan:

Your article War and Law is dead on target. You noted that it is difficult to delineate on the spectrum the exact line where law enforcement turns into war, but I think you actually have already provided one criterion: law enforcement (and therefore law itself) cannot operate outside the bounds of physical power. Where one cannot "arrest" the perpetrators, law and its enforcement mechanism does not exist. The great Cicero expressed this as "Inter arma silent leges--In time of war the laws are silent."

Another criterion as to what might make terrorism correctly acts of war is their collective nature: acts of force (fighting, or more precisely, ambushes)committed by one group against another group. War is, as Clausewitz so pungently and correctly noted, fighting, and fighting is violence. Violence used by terrorists is on a scale that law simply cannot adequately deal with. And all law ultimately rests on consent; terrorists do not consent. Terrorists should be considered, to use an old English legal term, outside of the law, just as pirates were. Law enforcement may be able to deal with terrorists within a community that supports the rule of law, but outside of that community, only force rules, and it will be only force that determines the victor. Therefore, unfortunately, the only ultimate solution to terrorists is military force to destroy them.

Sincerely, Mike McGlothlin mmcgloth@yahoo.com

Hi Jonathan,

I walked with you as I read your e-mail about your experience of the attack upon the World Trade Buildings. It was awesome and sad. I knew through your experience that I was on the front lines in the episode what is being called a New War. I believe that the politicians are missing the most important point - that point is- that indeed this is a war of religion. The history of Islam is not one of being a peaceful nation. In the 8th century, Islam tried to annihilate every other religion off the face of the earth. Islam is a religion of suppression and aggression. Its people live in the darkness of totalitarianism, carried on in the name of God. Islam as an institutional religion, is a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode on the stage of the world. I would not take it lightly. Our leaders better not get too spiritual and get caught up in the rituals of religion. Its a hardball game. The rules of which Islam is playing by are not the rules of traditional religion, with its platitudes of "Love thy neighbor." It is indeed a Holy War. The madness that goes with Holy Wars is irrational emotions of a displaced ego. The family jewels are on the line. Look at how Islam treats its women. I know that the politically right thing to say is that the terrorist are right-wing fanatics. Notice the lack of enthusiasm in the attitude of the other Islamic leaders who are not considered to be right-wing.

Always now,

Fred Fariss count@infi.net

P.S. I want you in New York city to know that you are not alone. We are one in spirit in the body of community. When the terrorist attacked New York, they attacked America. America is us - all of us - 300 million.

Dear Jonathan:

I just read your last two essays and I agree with your conclusions in both. I am glad to see that you understand that those who hate cannot be reasoned with and must be eliminated. I also share your suspicion that we may not be up to the task. America is prepared now to do what it must, but whether this can be sustained or not is questionable. However, I think that this "will-to-victory" is not missing in the American people, (who generally love a fight), but rather in the intellectual and political leadership of the nation.

Big talk is cheap. Already there is a huge split in the administration between the Cheney/Powell "status-quo-ante" version of incremental change versus the Rumsfield/Wolfowitz/(and maybe Rice) view that this is a real war on many fronts and many levels that requires a real change in the terror apparatus of the world, including the destruction of regimes like the Taliban, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. As you note, this will require strong military forces on the ground and therefore serious casualties. But I also think that the terrorists and their facilitators in their profound ignorance will help sustain the will-to-victory because they will continue to attack civilization. The only question is will the efforts we make be milk-toast per Cheney/Powell, or will they be effective and rigourous and therefore destroy the enemy in the shortest time possible, preventing more civilian deaths. What happened in NYC and Washington last week is not the most terrible of effects: the question of WMD, especially nuclear--continues to hang over the head of civilization.


Mike McGlothlin mmcgloth@yahoo.com

Dear Jonathan:

My name is David Elliot, and I'm the brand-new communications director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. (Great job timing on my part, huh?)

I saw your note on the abolition listserv, and I immediately went to your web site. I have read all three of your essays and have subscribed so that I can see the ones to come.

All three of your essays are outstanding, but it is No Breast-beating that I find to be the most intelligent thing that has been written so far, since Sept. 11. (And I say this even though I think I must have read hundreds of op-eds on the subject!)

You have very much clarified my thinking on this matter. I will support an intelligent, sustained campaign to deal with the geopolitical threat that Oslama bin Laden poses. I am like you; I do not like war, but in this situation, I think we must see it through to the end.

Please know that your stuff is being read and keep up the good writing!

Best, David Elliot DElliotDC@aol.com

Get stuffed

Please don't bother to reply.

Brian Barton brianbarton@beeb.net

Everything else

Dear Mr. Wallace:

You stated that the only reason a handgun exists is to kill people. It can be used for lots of fun on the range, period. Especially with all the new shooting sports and games around today. I must take issue with your statement that people that own handguns want to kill someone. I am a deputy sheriff in a small Tex town, I hope i never have to shoot anyone. But I am prepared to do so to protect some ones life. Even if I weren't in law enforcement I would own a weapon(s) not so as to have the means to necessarily kill someone, but to keep them from killing/injuring me and my loved ones.

Anyway, Best Regards Sgt. Jimmy Gillit jimmygillit84@hotmail.com

Dea Mr. Wallace:

im not a religous person i dont even know how i found this web site surfing last night i believe in god but i dont worship in a church or synagogue. i have found your article very stimulating intellectualy and your thoughts and beliefs are fascinating and i am only writing to give praise where it is do so often people dont.. you have a great way of seeing from both sides from without and within. i have never found anyone who has written or has a train of thought similar to mine but i think you do. i was only wondering if you were a women or a man not that it would matter


Mr. Wallace,

I read your (rather old) article entitled Why I Am Not a Libertarian, and can say that I agree totally with your views expressed within it. Basically, I'm a college student, and was wondering what you classify your political alignment, is it classifiable? :)

As far as civil liberties goes, I am a libertarian, but in my opinion, big corporations are no better than big government, and giving the world to them will result in nothing more than corporate wage-slavery on a massive scale. There should be an equilibrium, a series of checks and balances if you will, between the government and the corporate sector. Like you, what stumped me was how to classify my economic alignment. I too feel that big government is oppressive, but at the same time feel that the government should have enough control to impose ethical, environmental and growth regulations on corporations. This "corporate citizen" mess has gone way too far, and atrocities committed by companies like Monsanto and Firestone which resulted in mass environmental destruction and human death have gotten their execs a slap on the wrist, when I thought they should have gotten criminally tried (and possibly the charter for the company revoked).

I've considered myself both a libertarian and a progressive liberal (i.e. a "Green"). I like the Green's economic standpoint, and I'm close to the libertarians social standpoint. I feel that the constitution and the bill of rights are amazing documents and we've strayed so far from them today.


Robby Dermody robbyd@robbyd.org

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Re Steven Spielberg Wants to be a Real Boy:

One is mature when one realizes that not everyone likes chocolate. Some people enjoy vanilla. Steven Speilberg is successful because many of his "another Spielberg moments" touch the hearts of the masses. Hey, maybe the majority likes chocolate and Steven is chocolate. You sir, happen to like vanilla. Speilberg goes over your head in what he is trying to do and you are unimpressed. So be it. Or you are far out in left field, out to lunch, or orbiting in outer space. In any case, as successful as he is, he doesn't have to please everyone. If he pleases himself and most people enjoy what he does, that's all it takes. All I could think of while reading your opinion of him was, "Sour Grapes".

Linda Koplovitz lin-kop@home.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Re The Treaty Ripper:

Canadian Lawyer Christopher Black has written an article on the ITCY, the other international court. the link is below.





some other articles you might be interested to read:

US Finances Ethnic Warfare in the Balkans by Michel Chossudovsky http://www.antiwar.com/rep/chuss4.html

America at War in Macedonia by Michel Chossudovsky http://www.antiwar.com/rep/chuss5.html

Backing up Globalization with Military Might by Karen Talbot(nov.99) http://www.covertaction.org/full_text_68_03.htm

"An impartial tribunal, really?" by canadian lawyer Christopher Black (November 21, 1999) http://www.swans.com/library/art5/zig036.html


ANTIWAR/Centre for Libertarian Studies:for daily international news. The news are stored in their archives so you can easily read the previous weeks news. Also many columnists in various parts of the world(China,Israel,UK...) donations to their website are now tax deductible. www.antiwar.com

Covert Action Quarterly magazine (founded by an ex-CIA agent) http://www.covertaction.org

The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. Sweden; http://www.transnational.org/

The Emperor's New Clothes:news and articles http://www.tenc.net

Citizens concerned for the people of Irak: http://www.scn.org/ccpi/


I have read your article on cybersitter and I would like to offer you my support. I am pleased that people like yourself are out there spreading the word about cybersitter. I was looking for a good filtering program for my home computer (I have small children who are learning about the net) when I stumbled onto your article. My problem was how do I keep my kids away from the junk on the net, for me it wasn't enough that they stay away from hardcore porn sites but also leftist sites like N.O.W. and sites talking about lesbian issues. You reported that cybersitter goes that extra mile in helping me raise my kids right, and for that I thank you. Keep up the good work.

Travis Hamilton travis.hamilton@home.com

Dear Mr.Jonathan,

I am writing to you from another part of the world so to say where the knowledge of english - a foreign language to us, still rises many eyebrows here and gets a special regard. I am writing from a south indian town. I am interested in writing a book and more so want to publish it. As you have mentioned in your article Why I may not write another book, I have always had this feeling that after some good works many writers fail to write what they had intended when they choose writing as a career and start spewing out trash in which neither they have any real interest nor will that work generate any interest among those who read it. My wish to write a book is to share my understanding about life as a humanbeing. I served as a volunteer social worker for 5 years in a charity home, where I had good exposure to people in distress. We used to counsel these pitiable souls and treat them at our home but once they go back to their family, the family members do not accept them. Often I used to think as to who is the patient, the person in distress or his family members. It was then I decided that if at all I would do something it would be to talk or write about human compassion that is more necessary than to be just a financially successful person. Success and Happiness cannot and should not be counted on one's wealth position. So I wanted to communicate this message to people around me no matter whether they give a ear to it now or not but some one some where will be in dire need of these words which could change his life. Your ideas have given me a new turn ; in that it would be better for me to publish my thoughts in the cyber world rather than convincing a GATE KEEPER, which I might consider of doing at a latter stage.

Thanks and regards,

Vignesh S startellvignesh@vrsl.com

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I just read your article about Karla Fay Tucker, Texas Killed Karla Fay and wanted to say that I agree completely with you. My heart breaks for what she did, and what happened to her, but I know that right now, she is in the presence of the Almighty God and in no pain or sorrow because of her acknowledgment of her need for repentance from her sins before she left this world. Her sins have been forgiven because of the Jesus Christ's Blood sacrifice on Calvary's hill 2,000 years ago. Before her death, I was a big proponent of the death penalty, but now am opposed to it. Only God has the right to take a life. He is our Judge. His Word is clear, "Thou Shalt Not Kill". Many argue that because Jesus came into this sinful world, killing others is now okay and somehow "God's will". I don't agree. I can't see Jesus directing us to kill one another. (One day face to face)

I'm not sure who the man you referred to is (Richard Thornton)...I think he might be the obese man I saw on T.V. a few times...but..if this is the same man, you are right about him being turned into an "animal" because of his wife's death by Karla Fay before she found Christ. I'm sorry for him, because Satan has come in and filled his heart so full of anger, unforgiveness, and hatred. He doesn't realize that he too is a sinner and is in danger of the Great Judgement of God when he passes because of his unrepentant heart as he stated, "Now my wife Debra can kill Karla in Heaven". "For we know that All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23 . If he only knew of God's love for him, and His forgiveness of his sins (which put Jesus on the cross) then maybe he would be a humbled and not so condemning of her. Forgiveness can be such a hard thing for us to practice when we've been wronged. Even if we profess to be believers in Christ, we want to protect and "coddle" our flesh. It's hard to die to the flesh..but this is what God commands of us. But, that's just what Jesus did when He died on the cross..He was the only perfect One..without sin of any sort; He did something really awesome..He actually became sin because of His love for all of us frail creatures. He loved us that much...And then in His last moments, He Forgave Us. How can we not do the same for others who've wronged us.

We just need to pray for Mr. Thornton for we are all like Mr. Thornton ...because God really does love him ....just as much as He loves you and me, and I'm sure he's in a lot of terrible pain still even after all these many years.

But, I know that one thing is for sure, Jesus our Lord can erase all the hurt and make him whole again. I Thank God for Calvary.

Wishing you Godspeed

Janis Boyer starrpower1@aol.com