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Letter to the editor

As a Duke alumnus, I was disturbed to read of the vandalism of the Chapel statue of Robert E. Lee.

First, the hubris of the individuals who vandalized the work of art is sickeningly presumptuous. In times when the future direction of the university remains unclear, the members of the Duke community come together, participate in lively yet respectful discourse and arrive at thoughtful answers. The individuals who defaced the statue shamefully took it upon themselves to make the decision for all of us. They showed a total and absolute disregard for their community and for the Duke way.

Second, while maintaining our position among the most elite academic institutions, Duke has, in general, resisted the most noxious aspects of political correctness. Although we are a politically liberal community, we have continued to respect a diversity of opinion regardless of whether it be left or right. Diversity of opinion provides for a very rich discourse that better informs our decisions. The actions of the vandals show an absolute lack of respect for opinions different from their own. They have zero interest in diversity of any kind. Forcing their opinions on others is their only goal.

Third, it is only through a narrow perspective that one fails to see Lee’s greatness. He was one of the most revered military men in the United States. He was a hero of the Mexican-American War and served as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy. At the onset of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln offered him a major command. At a time when people considered themselves citizens of their state before their country, he decided that he could not, in good conscience, go to war against the people of Virginia. The Civil War was not a war against a foreign power. It was American versus American. Lee was an honorable American just as much as Union generals.

Tim Neely is Trinity '87.

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