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February 2009

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:

This letter is in response to the media coverage of President Barack Obama.

In the twenty-five or so years I have been following politics in the United States I have never seen media coverage of an individual {Obama} that borders on promoting a "cult of personality". It never fails to amaze me how foolishly we elect the leaders of this country. We end up electing someone with virtually no experience in government to lead us out of the worst financial disaster in our country's history. Keep in mind that this disaster has not yet run it's full course. Still the media paint a picture of President Obama as a great savior before he has even executed one of his duly sworn duties. He has not merited the consideration of greatness bestowed on past presidents because he hasn't even completed one month in office not to mention a full term.

In addition to the media's cultic adulation of President Obama is this pre-occupation with the election of the first black-American president. President Obama is not an African-American any more than I'm a Polish-American or Irish-American {nee Moran}. He is a black-American who happens to have African heritage as I am a white-American who happens to have Polish and Irish heritage. As for the election, Donald Duck could have beaten the Republican nominee so to suggest that America has made a cultural shift towards better race relations by electing the first black-American president is making an error in logic referred to as a faulty cause. If the economy was strong and foreign policy not such a mess, would the election have turned out differently? We will never know. The only thing certain now is that President Obama is "on-the-clock" and time waits for no one.

Joe Bialek

Dear Jonathan:

In response to your statement in your bio that "my whole life seems like a detour":

indeed. Carl Jung was asked by the young daughter of a friend, Dr. Jung, what is the shortest route to my life's goals?

To which he responded, the detours, my dear. the detours.

Richard Thieme

Dear Mr. Wallace:

In Securitization and Responsibility you state: '“Securitization” is defined as “a financial transaction in which assets are pooled and securities representing interests in the pool are issued.”'

Actually, that is incorrect in one important respect: there is no necessity to pool assets (although it has become usual). Furthermore, a decade ago it was usual for the underlying assets to be involved in the operations of a business, in such a way that securitising caused the funding to flow through to an increase in the business's revenue base more than matching the payments. Clearly, this is no longer common practice.

For some of your later remarks about IPOs, you might want to read up on the "long firm fraud" - it may have another name in the USA.

As for "Perhaps some people elsewhere think that the U.S., which has so often buoyed or rescued First World countries both economically and militarily, has a right to sink them every once in a while?" - no, we are now and for years have been well aware of all the strings attached to that. It was certainly clear after Suez.

Yours sincerely,


I am very pleased whenever An Auschwitz Alphabet is assigned to grade school students as part of a Holocaust project. Recently, several students in one class wrote letters to me as part of their assignment:

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have learned what I thought was a lot over my years of being in middle school. That was until my teacher assigned a project dealing with the Holocaust. I learned that Jewish people weren’t considered a religion to Hitler, it was considered a race. I also learned that they didn’t keep every prisoner that was sent to the concentration camps, I always thought that they used everyone. The ones that aren’t used are told that they are going to take a shower and are simply gassed then burned. Amongst other things these are some of the things that I learned.

Recently I have taken a look at your essay and I wanted to let you know my thoughts on it. I felt so ashamed of my country when you said that when you lived in New York people would blame Jews for “killing our Lord”. I had one question, what was it that one set of your grandparents would be shot and the other would be gassed in Auschwitz? I did agree with the statements that you made about a day in the life of a Jewish person. When you said that the Holocaust is a “human issue” it really is because the Jews were constantly attacked and blamed for everything that went wrong. I do however wonder sometimes why didn’t the Jews get together and rebel against the authorities they are killing them anyway at least die with a sense of know you tried to help. That was a few things that had thoughts about.

By me being a young girl of a African- American background I think it is very important to learn about the Holocaust. I really didn’t know as much of the story that was told. Mostly all I heard of in the Holocaust was the Jews being Exterminated but it was many others as well, including African youth. They way that Hitler refers to black people in some of his letters and documents is very degrading. He said in one essay that "In both cases, there is not the slightest moral duty regarding these offspring of a foreign race." In my opinion Hitler is not a leader because he has this image of the country and if you are don’t match the description you are killed that’s not right. A world filled with fair skinned, blue-eyes, and blond hair would be empty. There are a verity of different sizes, colors, styles, and he totally ignores that. I think everyone should learn about the Holocaust because it was a tragic event that people just sweep under the carpet.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Truthfully when I first started this project i didnt see the significance of it and no I realize that it is improtant and it has totally changed my thinking about the whole topic. The first important thing that I learned was that there was more races than just the Jews being effected by the Holocaust as far as, the Polish, Black Youth (mulatto children), Jehovah Witnesses, Gypsies, the disabled, homosexuals, also Priest and Chritian Leaders. I also, learned about the largest Death Camp which is in Poland (Auschwitz). Many many many Jews were killed there.

I can actually relate to you essay becauseyou mentioned how kids used to say things to you like “the Jews killed our Lord”. I say I connect with this because when I went to a new camp I was talked about for being the only African American girl, (so i feel your pain). “A main objective was to create a place in cyberspace that would bear witness to what happened and attempt to give some kind of purchase on understanding it. Everything important to us, or important to understand, in the "outside" world, should be echoed here.” I think this is a good point because more people should actually know what happened and a sort of understanding.

I think it important for me as a young adult of color to learn about the Holocaust because I want to learn more and expand my mind and learn what happened before my time. The Holocaust connects to my history because I am African American and African American’s were also killed and had suffer all of these horrible things. I think I learned to appreciate what I have because it CAN be taken away from you in a matter of moments. I can use this lesson by not be selfish and appreciating what I have. I would also, have my own mind if I was in Hitler Youth because it is okay to be different. I believe that I can and cannot learn from the Holocaust because I wasn’t in that time period and I really wanted to see what was really going on maybe from a perspective of Hitler. I believe that the Holocaust tells that you can be different and it is okay. Also, to be appreciative because the Jews got pretty much got everything taken from them and you never know what could happen.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

After completing a research project on the Holocaust, I learned a lot of valuable information. I learned about Anne Frank, her family and their experiences after being captured by the Nazi’s. I also learned about the violence that occurred in the concentration camps.

I thought that your essay was a very good one. It contained a lot of information and facts. One thing that struck a chord with me was when you discussed the fact that twelve year olds watched the cruelty of the Nazi’s. This was a very painful image that played through my mind because I am thirteen and I couldn’t imagine having to witness that type of cruelty. I agree with your thoughts because because these thoughts were very similar to what I was thinking of as I was reading about these things.

As an African-American, young man, I feel that it is important to learn about the Holocaust because these experiences shaped the lives of many people and this was a horrible time during history. The Holocaust connects to African-American history because as African-Americans, we were also discriminated against and hated because of our race and beliefs similar to what the Jews experienced. I can use these lessons in my life as an African-American teenager to reflect on how far we have come as a nation. Although discrimination still exists, it is not as obvious as it was in the past. These lessons have also reminded me to respect people of all races and nationalities and to treat others equally.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Our class has been learning about the Holocaust and its effects. The most valuable information I have gathered about the Holocaust was about Adolf Hitler and how powerful he was. Some other things that I thought were valuable were about the concentration camps and how deadly those were.

I read your letter and to respond to your letter I must say that even though I’m not in your situation I could still connect with you because people of color went through the same things that you were going through. You know that you have escaped the prison and all of the torture that these people are putting you through but people are still putting you down reminding you of who you were before you had freedom. Like in your letter you say “To be a Jewish child in America, even in New York City, means that there is a certain fissure in your reality. One the one hand, you may (if you are a secular, much assimilated Jew) spend a lot of time feeling like a normal American kid. Then from time to time people remind you that you are not. Another kid in the schoolyard tells you that "the Jews killed our Lord", or someone says that the Holocaust never happened or is vastly exaggerated, or you read in the paper that a KKK official in the South said that Jews are not white people. More importantly, as you move through streets full of Catholics and Protestants, most of whom treat you like anyone else, in the back of your mind you are imagining how in Europe in 1942 you would have worn a yellow star, been shot in a pit, or sent to the gas chamber.” I could connect with that because blacks were going through those same things that you experienced or went through.

I think that it is important for me to learn about the holocaust because during slavery days people went through those similar things that Jews went through in Concentration Camps. It relates to my heritage because Jews and Blacks were singled out for their religion and for how they looked. I could use this in my everyday life for if we have another lesson about I will already know and could make little connections on my own. I enjoyed your letter and enjoyed learning about the Holocaust!!!

Dear Mr. Wallace:

And one of the most valuable things I learned during my holocaust project is that it was really hard for the children because in my opinion they had to go through the most trouble. By most trouble I mean they were tortured and taken away their families and tortured at such young ages and I think that was really sad.

In his essay when he said “ Those who do not remember the past are DOOMED to repeat it” I didn’t necessarily agree with that quote because just because you don’t remember it doesn’t mean you’re going to have to repeat it. It’s just like saying I don’t remember wearing those shoes yesterday so i'm going to have to repeat my whole day or repeat everything I did yesterday.

I think the holocaust connects to my history because it’s just like racism today. But instead of it being Jews and Germans its blacks and whites and their dislikes for one another. Some personal lessons I learned from this tragedy was that don’t judge people by the way they look or act. I can use these lessons by sharing them with other people. I think you put a lot of thought and feelings in your letter/essay.