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Summer 2002

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Moral relativism and 9/11

     After reading the reactions of Jonathan Burkan ’93 and Mark Gropler, parent ’02, to Prof. Mary Stange’s article “U.S. Ignores Religion’s Fringes” [in the spring Scope], I was inspired to write as well. I too found Ms. Stange’s article disturbing—partly because it was provocative, but primarily because I believe that her perspective reflects the overall perspective of Skidmore’s curriculum.
     I greatly value my Skidmore education and particularly the knowledge I garnered from the Liberal Studies component. But Ms. Stange’s article points out the need for Skidmore to adapt and improve its quality of education.
     Ms. Stange’s assertions are faulty due to a lack of objectivity in her viewpoint. If there is no objective perspective and we are forced to deliberate between two subjective views, we cannot define morality. When you and I see a kitten, we may think, What a cute kitten; someone from the opposite side of the earth may look at that kitten and think, What a great lunch; and neither perspective is deemed better or worse. In this kind of cultural relativism, one cannot define right and wrong. This is why Mr. Burkan, Mr. Gropler, and I take offense at Ms. Stange’s assertions. She takes the secular humanist perspective and speaks to the atrocities of September 11 as if she is discussing a painting in a museum. There is no objectivity, just many different subjective views.
     She is correct to say that we should not blanket an entire people with a metaphorical black hat and automatically deem ourselves the possessors of the white hat. Yet there are times when people are objectively evil and do wear black hats. September 11 brought a group of these people to our attention. On September 11, our friends and family were murdered. Ms. Stange asserts the importance of “understanding” the murderers and not “demonizing” them. She should be aware that when she voices this politically correct viewpoint, her words are not only inaccurate but offensive.
     In her “Author’s Reply” she makes several objectionable assertions, but one stands out: She accuses the U.S. of persistently siding with Israel because we “prioritize the West over the rest.” The U.S. does not side with Israel because of a self-centered oversight. The U.S. sides with Israel because we share a similar vision of what is right and what is wrong. The U.S. does prioritize the West’s perspective of right and wrong over a nation that propagates terrorism.
     In his letter Mr. Burkan wrote of combating “one-sided, left-leaning political thinking” at Skidmore. I agree and suggest that Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind be required reading for all incoming students. And I also suggest that the entire faculty read and understand this critical volume.

Matthew Bernstein ’89
Silver Spring, Md.


     When I started reading Jonathan Burkan’s letter, I thought it had to be a joke. I was shocked when I realized it wasn’t. Yikes!
     I believe what Prof. Mary Stange wrote was absolutely on target. She wasn’t saying she agreed with the terrorists, just arguing that we should take the time to try and understand how others see the U.S.
     Finally, the comment about not wanting to help pay her salary gives her too much heat—and it’s insulting. I took many classes with Mary Stange, and she’s a great asset to Skidmore.

Katherine Cunningham ’99
Bridgeport, Conn.


© 2002 Skidmore College