Statement on mob attack at U.S. Capitol
Dear Skidmore Community,
I write today in response to the astonishing events that occurred in our nation’s capital yesterday. Like millions of people in our country and around the world, I watched in horror as a mob attacked the United States Capitol and disrupted one of the most hallowed of American political actions, the peaceful transition of power from one party to another in the wake of a lawful election that expressed the voice of the people. This was not protest, this was not political action meant to improve the nation, this was not a legitimate effort to support American democracy. This was a lawless act of defiance against the will of the democratic process. As an unabashed American patriot, I am dismayed and outraged at this literal assault on our 244-year-old democratic institution and this brazen flouting of the Constitution and electoral process.
At the very heart of Skidmore College’s mission statement, we find this principle: "The College seeks to prepare liberally educated graduates to continue their quest for knowledge and to make the choices required of informed, responsible citizens." The responsibilities of civic duty are part of the Skidmore mission. Democratic process, commitment to justice and the rule of law are woven into our very identity. The events of yesterday, and the actions that led to those events, are in stark opposition to who we are as a College and what we are committed to doing in the world.
Our work as a great liberal arts college is more important than ever in this difficult moment. The world needs our mission today more than ever. We’re living in a time when a Manichean worldview dominates. Us versus them. Two warring opposites that can’t imagine the truth or legitimacy of the other. A refusal to speak to or engage with those who possess opposing views and an almost puritanical righteousness that would condemn the very right of the other to even speak or exist. We see this on both extremes of the political spectrum today. It is the very opposite of what a liberal arts education teaches us.
Truth depends upon argument; meaning arises through debate and contestation; my being open to the challenge of a different worldview shows my confidence, not my weakness. At the very heart of the liberal arts ideal is this conviction: difference and diversity and multiplicity are the glory of the human condition. Yes, that makes for argument. Yes, it makes for messiness. But it’s also where the deepest beauty and justice is to be found.
As Ralph Ellison states near the end of his great novel Invisible Man: "Whence all this passion for conformity? Diversity is the word. America is woven of many parts. I would recognize them and let it so remain."
Today, right now, as we begin a new year that is filled with hope and enormous challenge, I urge us all to ponder such words and to put them into practice.
Marc C. Conner