John Leo

Teachers at all levels have been warning us for years about where this is headed. We are seeing large numbers of the young unable or unwilling to make the simplest distinctions between right and wrong. Even horrific acts -- mass human sacrifice by the Aztecs and genocide by the Nazis -- are declared to be unjudgeable. "Of course I dislike the Nazis," one upstate New York student told his professor. "But who is to say they are morally wrong?" The same argument, or non-argument, can apply to the terrorists of September as well.

Only a minority of students think this way, but multiculturalism, with its radical cultural relativism, is becoming a serious problem. It leaves a great many students dubious about traditional American values and cynical about any sense of common purpose or solidarity. This is particularly so when the mantra of the cultural left that America is "racist-sexist-homophobic" is added to the mix.

This hybrid philosophy -- no judgment of other cultures, but severe judgment of our own -- is already beginning to color many responses to the terrorist attacks. It peeks out from the behind the "root causes" argument and the need to "understand" the terrorists and to see their acts "in context." Often what is really meant by the root-cause people is that reckless and imperial America brought the attacks on itself.

The philosophy also shines through many statements of concern about bias against Muslim Americans. Of course Muslims must not be singled out for attack or scorn. But a good many official statements about Sept. 11 made only brief reference to the horror of the attacks before launching long and lopsided attention to the possibility of anti-Muslim bias.

Terrorism is the worst threat the nation has ever faced, and at the moment, Americans are solidly united to confront it. The multicultural-therapeutic left is small but concentrated in businesses that do most of the preaching to America: the universities, the press, the mainline churches and the entertainment industry. They will have to be pushed to move away from sloppy multiculturalism and all-purpose relativism. Let the pushing begin.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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