‘Ethics’ in perspective

July 7, 2012

April, 1945. Elements of the U.S. Seventh Army 42nd and 45th divisions liberate the Dachau Concentration camp. Laid before them the handiwork of Waffen SS troops; tens of thousands of cadaverous prisoners, train cars full of rotting corpses, the pervasive stench of death.

In his rambling essay on everyday ethics, Bruce Hetrick [June 25] introduces us to David Brower, a “leading environmentalist” with a “penchant for expressing bold ideas in blunt terms.” We are then treated to Brower’s despicable attempt to draw moral equivalence between the horrors of the Nazi heartland and environmental dustups pitting spotted owls against loggers.

Building upon this mendacity, Hetrick’s writing proceeds down his well-traveled path regarding the dangers of smoking, before veering off into a series of simplistic examinations of assorted ethical conundrums. His writing of forgiveness contains little of the redemptive nature of which the Gospels speak. Rather, it is a sentiment swathed in pretense, the air of one who believes he stands with the angels, staring across a chasm to the children of darkness. Policy differences are criminalized; demons are those who do not accept our beliefs.

He tells us life is full of hard choices. Indeed. Millions of humans rising out of poverty, laying claim to Western lifestyles and resources; our increasing generational divide on entitlement spending; artificial intelligence systems that may displace entire industries.

The enormity of these challenges somehow make questions of forgiveness a little less daunting.


James McQuiston

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