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Reader Letters

Shades of Gray

Dear TMN,

Today’s “Not an Open Letter” by Elizabeth Kiem speaks for so many of us who understand how the world works in shades of gray.

I was sad and disappointed to learn about Grass’s secret when I first read about it. It was the same knee-jerk response that so many others continue to express. But I pulled myself back from that abyss; what we need in this world is more understanding and less rush to judgment, after all. The howling critics that remain rooted in their absolute positions clearly have forgotten all the horrible mistakes they also made when they were young and stupid.

Let me point out that “horrible” is not solely defined by the Holocaust, but by the many daily indiscretions we have all contributed to in the fall of our own collective humanity. A child born without a father but with a drug addiction. A careless lane change that sets off a chain-reaction car accident. A gambling challenge that puts an entire family into straits of financial despair. The signature on a business proposal, which lays to waste the livelihoods of thousands of working-class people. These are all horrible things, are they not?

So is one innocent if one didn’t do any of these things? Maybe the question should be this: Is one innocent if he or she didn’t try to prevent any of these things? Inaction is, in and of itself, another kind of crime against humanity. Only the youngest children are innocent. What have any of us done today to make the world a better place?

Writing The Tin Drum made the world a better place.

Who Grass is in the August of his life versus those months preceding April of 1945 needs to be remembered with perspective. Kiem has done so with a kind of raw compassion not normally expressed so publicly. I thank The Morning News for publishing her eloquent editorial in the same spirit that I honor Grass for his honesty.

Opening up dark matters means a little light can shine. I thank God for beacons.

Tamara Kaye Sellman

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded The Morning News. He is the author of Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and You Lost Me There. His next novel is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. His Kindle e-book for The Morning News Editions, about visiting different American towns called Paris, was selected as a notable essay for Best American Essays 2013. More information can be found at his website. More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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