The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.
This week, we learn that the only thing more out of touch with the real world than a creative writing student is a creative writing professor, and Wendy Erdwurm of Phoenix, Arizona, has an important announcement about how wonderful she and her husband are thinking about maybe being.
I teach in a creative-writing graduate program. A colleague submitted a student's story to a fiction anthology without the student's knowledge. The story was accepted and the student is thrilled, but I am uneasy. If other students find out, they may see this as favoritism. Did my colleague act improperly? Should our department establish rules about such things? Name Withheld, Alabama
A young woman wearing a vest packed with explosives and ball bearings blew herself up on the campus of a Baghdad university yesterday, killing at least 40 people and wounding dozens more in what was one of the bloodiest days in that war torn country since Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared a new security crackdown.
Meanwhile, reports from America's top intelligence officials indicate that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are enjoying a resurgence of power in Afghanistan and Pakistan—where President Pervez Musharraf made a truce with the terrorist organizations recruiting and training in the north of his country, even going as far as to release many prisoners associated with Bin Laden's murderous clan. The consensus among security experts is that terrorists are closer than ever to detonating a nuclear weapon in the United States.
Look, Updike, I guess what I'm saying is who the fuck cares about a boring short story getting published in a boring literary journal that no one except the seven boring writers being published and their seven boring moms will ever read? It's not so much whether or not your colleague acted appropriately or inappropriately as it is an issue of pulling your Harrys out of your fucking Potters.
The cousin of a Bosnian friend is seriously ill. A clinic here has agreed to see him, but he is too ill to fly here from Bosnia. The clinic wants him to take certain medication for a month. It is not a cure but will stabilize his condition sufficiently for him to fly. Sadly, he cannot afford this medication. My husband and I are considering paying for it, but we cannot afford to do so beyond that month. Is it ethical to help get him here and then abandon him? Wendy Erdwurm, Phoenix
This was the first draft of my response to your question, Wendy:
So, you're going to raise money to provide medication to a desperately ill man in another country whom you've never even met so that he can travel to the United States for treatment that could save his life? That's IT? You make me sick. Go back to Nazi Germany, asshole.
This is the revised draft:
If I ever fall gravely ill, I just hope that there is a hero like Wendy Erdwurm in my life who may or may not actually help me, but who will make sure to pose false ethical questions that even she knows the fucking answer to in a nationally syndicated advice column, just to let the whole world know how generous, selfless, and altruistic she and her husband are considering being, as if the Prius bumper covered in Free Tibet and Buck Fush stickers weren't indication enough. I'd give you guys a pat on the back, but it looks like you've got that pretty well taken care of.