"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, a man in California is concerned with how his wife's sister is using her vagina, and a man in Connecticut is concerned with how Singapore is stroking its cane.
My wife's sister left her husband of 15 years. She has invited my wife and me to an overnight visit at her new boyfriends house. I say that accepting the invitation would give the appearance of approval. I feel she should end one relationship or at least begin legal proceedings she has not before living with another man. My wife says it is not for us to judge. Should we visit her and her cohabiter du jour?
David Sutton, Pleasant Hill, Calif.
The one thing that I am sure of after reading your letter is that your wife must thank God every day for having met you. Most people never get to marry someone so blatantly willing to guide the moral lives of their family with such a blatant sense of superiority and condescension. Lucky her!
Obviously, you should swallow your pride and go to this overnight visit, which incidentally, what kind of relative invites you for an "overnight visit"? Nice family. Enjoy your incestuous key party at her "boyfriends" (sic) house.
Why should you go to this Family Ties Wide Shut? Not as a sign of approval for her ridiculously acceptable behavior that is not your business to criticize, but because what better way to gather ammo with which to humiliate her at the next family function? You can't just say "would you believe that Sarah invited us over to her boyfriends (sic) house but I refused out of some archaically puritanical sense of prudish self-righteousness!?!" You need something more powerful, like "I could hardly sleep at Sarah's new boyfriends (sic) house because all night long she was screaming 'PEE ON MY FACE, I DESERVE IT!'"
Two years ago, I lived in Singapore, and my apartment was robbed. Recently, when I returned, I found that the robber was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 10 strokes of the cane. The sentence seems excessive and the caning barbaric. I want to appeal for mercy on his behalf, but must I accept Singaporean justice? When in Asia, do I do as the Asians do?
David J. Powell, East Granby, Conn.
It is, and has always been, the white man's role on this planet to decide what is best for every one. Whether you are a Christian Missionary, a politician, or David Sutton of Pleasant Hill, California, you should never let your voice go unheard when it comes to telling everyone what you think about everything.
Luckily, of course, there are no injustices in the American legal system, and everyone who has ever been imprisoned or put to death in this country has totally fucking deserved it. Which leaves us white people free to travel the globe, serving out our bored, threadbare air of uninformed disapproval like so many secondary-market-hotel-cocktail-lounge Singapore Slings.
On the other hand, "10 strokes of the cane," which is also an amazing Alice in Chains album title, seems like a quaint local tradition...like penitentiary Delftware. So maybe you should just shut the fuck up, put on your rice hat, and take some slides to bore your neighbors with.