December 2015
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Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. Send your comments to me at I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. I have gotten into the habit of leaving out full names and email addresses; I have had too many people think better of something they said fifteen years ago. If you want your name and email included, let me know. Flames, however, will be published with full name and email address.

Dear Jon:

Regarding Ripples From Paris: First an item of agreement, then an item of disagreement.

I agree with you that I would not trade my privacy and independence for an assurance from the State of security.

But my reasons are different from yours. And my proposed answers are different.

You state that the danger from Islamic (a term missing from this month's entry, okay you did say ISIS thrice) terrorism, let alone "homegrown mass shootings", is "statistically remote" for any individual and thus not a reason to give up our freedoms, privacy and independence. That the risk of dying from heart disease or cancer is greater and thus not a reason to change our values.

(Your analogy with disease is wrong anyway; just because we may be more likely to die from disease does not negate the need to do something about Islamic terrorism. For example there are about 600,000 deaths from heart disease and 33,000 deaths from car accidents but that does not mean we do nothing about car accidents with a death rate that is "only" about 6% of heart disease?)

I totally agree. We should not change our values. But you have changed your values by the fact you have changed your actions. You avoid public spaces, you don't go to crowded halls or concerts. You have restricted your freedoms. You have acted rationally in my opinion but not in a fashion to maintain your freedoms let alone to expand your freedoms. I might say that you have given in to the heckler's veto both in regards to where you go and in your speech, wherein you, for the most part, avoid the underlying issues of why the ripples from Paris occurred.

I would not give up my freedoms, privacy and independence for security by the State because the State, no matter how well intended, no matter how well equipped, no matter how much surveillance they accumulate, no matter how quick they are to respond cannot be everywhere, cannot prevent arms from falling into the wrong hands (e.g. France and Europe as a whole has more restrictive gun ownership laws than the US and yet gun violence is not uncommon), and cannot prevent atrocities from occurring.

In theory getting rid of all armaments would be one answer. But as you may have noticed from several of the reports from Israel that those intent on attacks resort to such things as cars and knives. Are you willing to ban cars and knives as well?

Theory is great but reality shows that people who are focused on evil will prove the theory wrong. That is what happened in Paris.

In the US the vast majority of mass shootings occur in gun free zones. Mass shooters are evil but not dumb; why go shoot up a joint when you might be stopped almost immediately?

When it comes to stopping mass shootings, whether Islamic or psychotic, a distributive defense is necessary. You may call this a "downstream solution" and yes it is, but I prefer my more positive (and alliterative) term of distributive defense.

In other words as many citizens need to be armed as possible. To make everyone, in your terminology, a Player.

Does "Paris Change Everything"? No, of course not. But you might consider it , and San Bernardino most recently, as one of the accumulating facts that are waking the public to the dangers of Islamic terrorism and how widespread it is. And more and more of the public, both here in America and in Europe, are aware of the dangers of Islamic terrorism as indicted by the poll numbers of anti-immigration parties and groups in Europe and here. For me it was 9/11 that woke me up from my ignorance of Islam and the various strains within it that allow terrorism be pondered, promoted, promulgated and finally performed.

Ultimately with regards to Islamic terrorism we will need to address the pathology within Islam itself.


Dear Jonathan:

Excellent essay on losing a wheel! Just lost a wheel yesterday. Odd event. Like you I had a load on top of the car and blamed it for some odd clunking. Like you, I did most things right, signaled, willed the vehicle into a parking lot, and even parking space, albeit a bit fast, so crashed lightly.

Lesson learned, don't blame the kayak for weird noise (although they do make weird noises).