Values. As a society, a community, a campus and as individuals we have embraced and espoused a selection of values that we collectively esteem. We strive to be tolerant and non-“judgmental.” As students and as Americans we hold our civil liberties – among them our freedom of speech and the freedom to speak out against our government – paramount in importance. As the “melting pot” and a nation of immigrants, we celebrate, seek and promote diversity.

What does all that mean? Do we really make these values a part of our lives, or do we play follow-the-leader, and apply them selectively, only when they look and feel good?

You call yourself tolerant, but how tolerant are you to those with views opposing your own? You condemn intolerance as close-mindedness, but to my knowledge, there has yet to be a speaker on this campus espousing a minority political view – anything to the right of center – that has not been the victim of a disturbance or interruption in the crowd. Are you afraid of hearing ideas that are not your own? Isn’t that intolerance and close-mindedness?

You claim to value tolerance, yet are adamantly opposed to our presence in a country that is wholly divided by a lack of it. Should we be tolerant of the Shia? The Sunni? Both, while they murder each other? Will we be “tolerant” of Iran until it deploys its first nuclear weapon?

Is being non-judgmental really the kindest, best way to be? Or does it allow those who are not decent people to take advantage of others? When we formulate our own values, and strive to be good people, haven’t we made an important choice? For those who make different choices – to be dishonest, to lie, steal or cheat – why should we be non-judgmental?

Those who make decisions that lack integrity impose a burden on all of us, particularly the poor and vulnerable. Don’t we need to be “judgmental” and speak out against persons who would hurt us?

Perhaps it was that very ill-applied notion that cost 33 lives on April 14 at Virginia Tech. Steadfastly attempting to be non-judgmental toward Cho Seung-Hui, countless individuals surrounding the disturbed young man ignored dangerous warning signs, being decidedly tolerant rather than indulging in actions that may appear judgmental.

How much do you value your civil liberties, personal freedoms? Supremely, I am sure. Yet is our sense of self-worth and entitlement so inflated as Americans that we do not believe that those in other countries are not entitled to the same great freedoms we take advantage of every day?

We certainly like to proclaim our belief in and desire for international equality. But how does this belief correlate with the current outcry for a return to isolationism in American foreign policy?

We believe in the sanctity of our freedom of speech, yet newspapers are stolen in masses when something is published that has been deemed “mean-spirited” or offensive – an act that certainly indicates that the offender is both bankrupt of tolerance and dismissive of the civil liberties other than those belonging to him. In quieting those of a different mind than your own, you are simultaneously stifling their freedom of expression and inhibiting the choice of other individuals to hear what the dissenter speaks of.

Should the freedom of speech be applied only when that speech mirrors our own views? Where is the deference to civil liberty there?

You value “diversity” but prefer ideological homogeneity, embrace “diversity” but resist diversifying your thoughts or sources.

Although as Americans and as members of this campus we may believe in the sanctity of our values and their moral superiority, such complacency in our righteousness may blind us to other truths. These truths may reveal more important realities and externalities that, though threatening to our value-laden complacency, are in need of our attention.