Good and evil: where do we stand as moral beings? This is the singular query that runs through most of the interviews in this issue. Wallace Shawn states: “It makes you feel good to say other people are bad, and we always pretend that we never would do such bad things, but it doesn’t get you any closer to understanding what happened … why the crime was committed.” And Gilles Peress, who’s documented the Troubles in Ireland and the horror of the civil wars in Bosnia and Rwanda ruminates: “I have been left with a strong sense that we’re in a fifty/fifty situation, that man is fifty percent good and fifty percent evil … You’re left with a choice: You’re either for or against.” Fitting, that nearing the end of the millennium, we would be concerned with the biggest theme of man’s existence. We need desperately to take a moral stand. No culture can sustain itself without one. Other polarities: racial, religious and ethnic, especially when used divisively to market ideologies and products, are not the issue. Evil is not a force outside of us, at which we can point a finger and shudder.
Law professor Kendall Thomas discusses the biggest evil in our front yard: “The psychic structures of racism are the subject of collective denial in this country. We like to think that reasonable people of goodwill, acting reasonably can forge a rational public policy that will make notions of racial equality a reality. But that rational-choice model of how we go about overcoming racial domination ignores the deeply embedded psychic structure of racism …”
The potential for good or evil lies within each of us, and it is up to each of us to choose. It is that choice which defines us and our capacity to love. Where do we start? Making art and acting politically are distinct activities, but as writer Amy Hempel tells us: “There was a sermon I attended when I was a little girl … It was called “The Blessing of Dailiness.” I think that’s what (my characters) find. The answer is in dailiness.”
Scattered throughout this letter are snapshots taken at BOMB’s 15th Anniversary Benefit. It might seem inappropriate in this context to show our supporters having so much fun, but I believe that pleasure is good. And gaining pleasure while raising the financial support necessary to publish BOMB, even better. We wouldn’t exist without this support. So special bows go to the generosity of our sponsor, Absolut Vodka, especially Reetha Braxton, Victor Rutstein and Marion Kahan; The B Bar, especially Howard Schaeffer and Eric Goode; the individuals and companies who bought tables: The Bohen Foundation, Paul and Helaine Cantor, Grove Atlantic, Mercury Records, Miramax, MTV, Tim Nye and Paul Olsen; our co-hosts, committee and Board of Directors and all the wonderful individuals who gave as well as received. We had a blast, as you can see by the photos courtesy of Patrick McMullan. Thank you all. Betsy Sussler