Ethics Quiz: The Image-Shattering Werewolf Novel

werewolf transformation

I was going to include this in the Morning Warm-Up, which was already weird, but then realized that I wasn’t sure what the ethics verdict should be. Thus it became an ethics quiz.

Which American novelist would seem like the most unlikely to author a werewolf story? I wouldn’t put him at the top of my list, but John Steinbeck, a Nobel laureate known for somber Depression-era literary classics, would certainly be in the top ten. Yet the lionized author of “Of Mice and Men,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Cannery Row” and “Travels With Charley” did write a werewolf novel, in 1930, when he was a struggling writer. Completed under the pseudonym of Peter Pym, “Murder at Full Moon” was never published. A single copy sits in an archive in Texas, including drawings by Steinbeck himself.

Gavin Jones, scholar of American literature at Stanford University, has read the book, and pronounced it fascinating, complete and publishable. The agents for Steinbeck’s estate, however, have so far rejected his entreaties. “It’s a potboiler, but it’s also the caldron of central themes we see throughout Steinbeck’s later work,” Jones insists, and argues that the public should be able to read it. The author’s literary agents, the guardians of Steinbeck’s legacy, demur, saying,

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Stop Making Me Defend Stacey Abrams!

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Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson thought it would be cute last night to have his senior producer “perform a dramatic reading of the most titillating moments” from one of the pulpy romance novels Georgia politician Stacey Abrams wrote before she started running for office. The excerpt was objectively awful, but that’s irrelevant: Carlson’s stunt was an unethical cheap shot, and the equivalent of an ad hominem attack. Abrams’ bad prose tell us nothing about the validity of her political positions, and bringing them into the discussion is designed to mislead.

I hate this tactic, and I have condemned it before regardless of who was the target and who was the slime artist. Minnesota Republicans tried to discredit Al Franken when he was first running for U.S. Senate by digging up a sexually-provocative humorous piece he had written for “Playboy”—you know, the epitome of evil—eight years before when he was a full-time comedy writer. “When Republicans do things like this,” I wrote on the old Ethics Scoreboard, “they insult voters by assuming that they are narrow-minded and illiterate, celebrate humorlessness, and willfully blur the difference between entertainment and public policy.”

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Comment Of The Day: “From The Increasingly Fantastic Annals Of The Great Stupid: Norton And The Philip Roth Biography”

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Here is JP’s Comment of the Day on “From The Increasingly Fantastic Annals Of The Great Stupid: Norton And The Philip Roth Biography”. It tells the story of how a high school student learned what was wrong with banning books…any books.

I’ll add this as preface: “The Giver” is one of the most frequently banned books in public school libraries.

When I was in high school, I was a terrible student. I was averaging a 2.2 GPA and had no desire to do anything other than the absolute minimum of what was required of me (I think that is why my grammar is so bad).

Since I wasn’t doing too well academically and had failed a few classes, I was not on a path to graduate until, one day, in my sophomore year, the head librarian approached me. Apparently she was friends with one of the teachers I was pretty fond of, and they discussed ways to help me out. I was asked to be a the librarian’s personal Scout, a kind of \a teaching aid). The library had lots of Scouts, but I reported directly to her, and not the lady who supervised the rest of the scouts.

It was fun. I loved it. Then came the teaching. She gave me a book and wanted to know what I thought about it. She would tell me her favorite parts. She told me I reminded her of Sam. “Who’s Sam?” I asked. That was another boo, and that book turned into another book, and they kept kept on coming. That year I discovered a passion for reading. Pretty soon I was asking her for for new books and was leading the discussions.

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On Comments Of The Day Day, Comment Of The Day #1: “Ethics Observations On ‘Prayers Of A Weary Black Woman'”

hate fist

This is a Ryan Harkins Super Comment Of The Day, combining a series of his reflections on this prayer for racial hate. Here it is, inspired by “Ethics Observations On “Prayers Of A Weary Black Woman’” and a comment by Glenn Logan:

I wonder, if we had a poll, which of the following people would find more appealing? “Dear God, please help me to hate White people…” or: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, help me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” [Side note: though this prayers if often associated with St. Francis of Assisi, it is entirely absent from his writings. Its use can only be traced back to just before World War I.]

After spending a little more time reflecting on this incredible diatribe, I decided to take a step back and ask what it is about me that would lead to this. Now, I’m not necessarily claiming any direct personal responsibility for this terrible prayer, but my reflections do stem from Matthew 25:31-46. Have I seen you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and I did not minister to you?

Have I been indifferent to your struggles, since they are not mine? Have I been dismissive of your burdens, and perhaps even cast blame upon you? Did I sneer at your poverty, your drug addiction, your broken relationships, and say they were the just desserts of your poor choices? Have I stood at a distance and shrugged, because someone else would help, or if no one else did, the government would lavish plenitude upon you? Did I think that you were greedy for free money, and not feel the sting to your pride? Did I never feel the self-doubt and the hurt? Did I never extend a hand in genuine friendship, giving in to my own fears, rejecting you for your skin color before you could reject me for mine? If I showed you a smile, was it forced and hollow, because I cared more about not being called a racist than in offering you genuine happiness? Did I always demand you come to me asking, and never came without being asked? Was I the one who demanded you get a job before I’d respect you? Was I the one who belittled you for taking the opportunities offered you, without ever taking a moment to see if you were actually qualified? Did I ever stop to listen to you, to really listen to you, instead of lecturing at you?

This is not white guilt, but perhaps a bit of personal guilt at failing to walk side by side with someone who is hurting. Perhaps trying to walk alongside that person is not what they want, but am I so pusillanimous that I would not bear my heart to be wounded, that I would rather not risk pain in an effort to help another person?

I think this applies broadly. I think it is true that conservative economic theory is better than liberal theory, that it helps more people by increasing capital and opportunities all around. But the temptation for the conservatives is the same for the liberals. Correct me if I’m wrong, and I’m just spouting out my personal failings and shouldn’t indict others in my sins, but it seems that both the right and the left want to skip personally helping someone, and just let the monolithic, impersonal systems do the heavy lifting. If it isn’t letting the government distribute welfare to all those in need, then it is letting the economy generate the jobs that will then give people the opportunity to rise out of poverty.

Yes, I know there will be people who will unjustly hate with the fiercest hate imaginable, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. And there’s too much hate for anyone one person (save for the one person who proved his love for us by dying for us) to handle. But maybe there’s a great deal more hate than there needs to be because I didn’t do my small part to diffuse it.

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Ethics Observations On “Prayers Of A Weary Black Woman”

Nice.

Wait: what is this junk?

This is an essay in a “devotional” titled “A Rhythm of Prayer” by Sarah Bessey. Containing pieces by many authors, it is available on Amazon. Target sells it online for $14.87 in its “Religion + Beliefs” section and “Christian Life” subsection. It is selling well, I hear. The anti-white screed above was authored by Professor of Theology Chinequa Walker-Barnes of Mercer University.

Observations:

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Exclamation Points, 3/16/21: Duh! Whoa! Yay! Gag! Asshole!” (Item #1)

AngryJudge

The following Comment of the Day by long, LONG time commenter Michael West is especially welcome: there’s nothing I like better than a long, erudite COTD when I feel terrible and every moment not seeping is an ordeal. For a lot of reasons, I was way behind on my usual dental care last year, and the piper must ne paid: I have two toothaches, a related sinus infection and headache, and now face three extractions next week that wish could be in the next minute. My situation is just one more fun benefit of the lockdown, drastic, sot-in-the-dark precaution that had still unmeasurable benefits and many, many costs that have still not been quantified.

But I digress. People citing the Bible as authority for dubious ethical principles or, in the case sparking the COTD, unethical conduct has always been a pet peeve of mine even before I started thinking about such matters as a career. The example abused by Don Lemon was even on the Rationalization List: #6, The Biblical Rationalizations.

As a special treat, Michael ends by taking on “Walk a mile in another man’s shoes.”

Here is his erudite Comment of the Day on the first item in the post, “Ethics Exclamation Points, 3/16/21: Duh! Whoa! Yay! Gag! Asshole!”

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Oh look, someone who hasn’t cracked open a Bible in decades hopes to lecture Christians or Jews on Judeo-Christianity!

Here’s the whole passage from Matthew-

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

This comes from the famous Sermon on the Mount.

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Getting The Week Off To An Ethical Start, 3/15/2021! LBJ’s Doubts, Fake News, And second Acts

Today in ethics history, on March 15, 1964, President Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to urge the passage of a voting rights bill. Johnson declared that “every American citizen must have an equal right to vote, a right supposedly guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment, passed after the Civil War but foiled by many states that erected barriers based on race such as literacy and character tests and outright intimidation. “Their cause must be our cause too,”Johnson said, referring to Africa-Americans. “Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

It is a propitious time to consider LBJ, because a newly published book has revealed that his wife Lady Bird had to talk him out of quitting not long after his voting rights bill had become reality.

Johnson dictated his ideas for a withdrawal statement to his friend, Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas while in the depths of depression. “I want to go to the ranch. I don’t want even Hubert to be able to call me,” he told his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. “They may demand that I resign. They may even want to impeach me.” The First Lady ultimately talked her husband him through that period, allowing him to complete the final three years of his term. She wrote about the episode in her diary, she ordered the entry kept secret for years after her death.

I was not aware that Johnson was prone to clinical depression. Now I’m curious about how many of our other Presidents were. I was aware of three before Johnson—Pierce, Lincoln and Teddy. I’m sure there are more. Leaders, however, must not reveal their doubts and failures of confidence.

1. I believe this is called “putting the cart before the horse...” From the Boston Globe:

US officials have arrested and charged two men with assaulting US Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray during the Jan. 6 attack, but they do not know yet whether it caused the officer’s death.

Ah, how they want to be able to say that the rioters in the “armed insurrection” in which nobody had a gun (and that wasn’t an insurrection) killed Brian Sicknick. This mission has taken on extra urgency since the mainstream news media keeps saying, even now, that Sicknick was “killed” in the riot or by rioters. Yet as the Globe admits, as of today, this claim remains a lie, or if you prefer, fake news.

My experience is that reminding Facebook friends of this fact drives them bonkers.

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: New York Times Columnist Ross Douthat

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“It was mildly creepy to hear that the custodians of Theodor Geisel’s estate, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, consulted with a ‘panel of experts’ and decided to cease publishing six Seuss titles because they ‘portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.’ But it was much creepier that so few people notionally in the free-expression business, so few liberal journalists and critics, seemed troubled by the move.”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, one of the paper’s three token conservatives (or perhaps “non-knee-jerk Democrats” is more accurate), in his column, “Do Liberals Care if Books Disappear?”

The question is a rhetorical one. Douthat knows the answer, and so do regular Ethics Alarms readers: “Only if the books that disappear are those they agree with.” Though the column focuses on the Dr. Seuss metaphorical book-burning, Douthat properly interprets what it signifies. Of course, he is appropriately late to the party, for it was obvious well before “If I Ran the Zoo” was under attack that the totalitarian-tending Democrats and their progressive supporters and allies were in favor of “good” censorship. Never mind—Americans rushed to their mailboxes to vote an anti-free speech regime into power anyway.

Better late than never for Ross, I guess. Here are some highlights (but read his whole piece):

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And Today In The Attack On Liberty And The Pursuit Of Happiness That Is Known At Ethics Alarms As “The Great Stupid”…

Liberty weeps

Online retailer eBay has announced that it will no longer allow owners of the six Dr. Seuss books eliminated this week from Theodore Geisel’s published children books to sell the books online in its auction platform.

Citing its offensive materials policy, eBay Corporate Communications Specialist Parmita Choudhury explained, “At eBay, we have a strict policy against hate and discrimination to ensure our platform remains a safe, trusted and inclusive environment for our global community of buyers and sellers.We’re currently sweeping our marketplace to remove these items. It can take some time to review all existing listings and provide education to impacted users. We’re also monitoring the newly published list to be reviewed.”

First they came for Yertle the Turtle….

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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! You’re Cancelled, You Racist.

Suess birthday

Today is Dr. Theodore Geisel’s birthday. Better known to the world as Dr. Seuss, the author and illustrator of such classic children’s books as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Horton Hears A Who,” and my personal favorite, “Fox in Socks” because it drives my wife crazy, was born this day in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1904. Geisel, who used his middle name and his mother’s maiden name as his nom de plume, wrote 48 books (even some for adults). His work has now sold over 200 million copies and been translated into multiple languages. His style of verse and illustrating have been imitated and parodied countless times. Jesse Jackson even read “Green Eggs and Ham” on Saturday Night Live.

Nobody ever thought of Dr. Seuss books as “racist” until recent fads, events , cancel culture and The Great Stupid washed over the land. Well, OK, not “nobody.” Ethics Alarms had a post about the Seuss Museum in Springfield cutting a piece out of a Dr. Seuss mural because three prominent children’s authors who had been invited to attend the Children’s Literature Festival at the Museum threatened to boycott the event on the theory that the mural, painted to replicate a scene from Dr. Seuss’s first book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,”  was, they claimed, offensive. It had, said one of the grandstanding hysterics, a “jarring image” of a man with slanted eyes and a coolie’s hat using chopsticks to eat rice, because, apparently, Chinese people never wore such hats, don’t use chopsticks and hate rice. I wrote, while awarding the museum an Ethics Dunce designation (I’m thinking about adding a “Weenie of the Week”…what do you think?):

There is nothing racially jarring about Geisel’s painting of a “Chinaman” except to someone already looking for offense. Dr. Seuss’ drawings can be fairly termed cartoons. The definition of a cartoon is “a simple drawing showing the features of its subjects in a humorously exaggerated way.”  What are these juvenile children book authors asserting…that all cartoons are racially insensitive? That only cartoon of non-whites are offensive?…Normal Americans, meanwhile, understand the cartoon art form, recognize that features are exaggerated, and thus do not take drawings like those by Dr. Seuss (or Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons) as literal or malicious.

Well, silly me. I thought this was just a one-off moment of woke insanity: I have since learned that the Woke never sleep. In the post, I referenced “The Simpsons” and the fact that nobody had called for the elimination of Apu. Apu has since been cancelled as “racially insensitive.” The show also decreed that white voice actors can no longer portray black characters, so Dr. Hibbard has a new sound. Presumably “The Simpsons” will eventually seek a low IQ hick to voice “Cletis the Slack-Jawed Yokel” and a socially awkward MIT PhD. to do the voice of Prof. Frink.

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