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Use your experience reading and reflecting on The Sunflower to write an essay that describes what you learned about your thinking process—especially your process for making difficult moral judgments. In other words, trace the ways in which your ideas and judgments about Wiesenthal’s experience shifted, and use these shifts to reflect on your process for making difficult moral judgments.
Here is my paper and it is in MLA format!
Writing and Social Issues
24 September 2007
My Morals’ Transformation
Have you ever struggle with making a difficult moral judgment? It would be a surprise if
you have never struggled with making a difficult moral judgment. An essential part of human
nature is to struggle with your conscience which was shaped and molded by the process of
socialization. The thinking process of my mind about formulating a complicated moral judgment
has changed after discussing and reflecting about The Sunflower with my peers in class. Now, I
have a different outlook of other people’s ideology clashing with my own; I hold onto my old
belief of walking in someone else’s shoes; I know that there are different interpretations of
thing; and I found a new interest about the concept of what is good and evil.
When I finished reading The Sunflower, a story about the author who did not forgive the
dying SS man and did not tell the mother about the truth because he was struggling with his
conscience about morality. My mind was just overwhelmed with a bunch of questions revolving
about morality. I have been socialized with the idea of forgiveness from my family that is a
righteous deed to forgive someone who had done wrong to us. The idea of forgiveness that I
always been taught by my parents manifests itself in the Dalai Lama’s essay when he wrote “I
believe one should forgive the person or persons who have committed atrocities against oneself
and mankind” (qtd. in Wiesenthal 129). I had hoped that I would have an epiphany about
agreeing with my family’s ideology. In Hertzberg’s essay he stated, “The crimes in which this
SS man had taken part are beyond forgiveness by man, and even by God . . .” (qtd. in Wiesenthal
167). This statement just reinforced my ideology about the concept of forgiveness. In my
opinion, I would be struggling about whether it is a moral thing to do is to forgive someone or
not just because of my conscience. At times, I dislike the process of making moral judgments
those are formed in my conscience which gives me a headache in a figurative matter, of course.
I also get a headache after pondering the numerous meanings that silence portray. The concept
of being silent presented in The Sunflower fascinated me because it gave me a new insight which
could be utilized my thinking process about producing a difficult moral judgment. I always see
the cliché “Silence is golden” on the movie screen before the movie starts at the theater telling
me that people want it peace and quiet so they would be able to enjoy the movie without any
distractions. The other meaning of silence that I knew before reading The Sunflower is that the
silent treatment is an expression of anger towards others. I did not realize that silence have so
many interpretations and/or meanings. In Locke’s essay, in response to Wiesenthal’s question,
Silence hangs pall over this wrenching experience that you have shared with us, Mr.
Wiesenthal. When the dying Nazi turns to you and tries to beg forgiveness, you remain
silent. At that moment, you tell us, “there was an uncanny silence in the portrait in
silence and finally you leave the old woman without having answered her entreaties. By
remaining silent, you kept the truth about a son from his mother—in your words “without
diminishing . . . the poor woman’s last surviving consolation—faith in the goodness of
her son.” You gave, one hand, silent assent to a dying man’s truth about himself and, on
the other, you kept the truth, by silence, about a son from his mother. In your silence,
both revelation and concealment are manifest; is it possible that you said more in your
silence than if you had spoken? You ask if your silence to the dying Nazi’s pleas for
forgiveness was right or wrong. You wonder if it was a mistake not to have told his
mother the truth. (qtd. in Wiesenthal 200-201)
I have to admire what Wiesenthal did when he was silent about telling the dying man’s mother
from knowing the truth. If I was in the same situation I would have done the same thing as
Wiesenthal. I have to agree with the author that it would be an unmoral thing to do if he destroys
the mother’s memories of her son since that was the only thing she still has to live for. My
conscience does parallel with Wiesenthal’s conscience because if I was in his case, I would
doubted my decisions to be silent. I would start asking myself if what I did was the moral thing
to do or not. I cannot fathom the fact that it is possible to say more when being silent than
actually saying something. In Berger’s essay, his interpretations of silence intrigued me when he
In literary terms, silence is the principal character of this morality tale. And Simon was
twice silent: once in the death chamber of the dying Nazi, and once in the presence of the
dead man’s mother. Are the silences the same? Do they convey different meaning? The
first silence is one of confusion. Stunned, frightened, overwhelmed, Simon does not
know which way to turn. He is torn between the ethnical teachings of Judaism and the
harsh reality of the Holocaust whose only goal was the extermination of Jews. By the
way of contrast, the second silence is a conscious decision. It is taken out of kindness to
the mother. What, it might be argued, would there be to gain by the telling the mother
the truth about her son? Preserving his memory was a true gift of grace, the only such
gift to have a proper place in this story. To have forgiven her son would have been a
desecration both of the memory of the Jewish victims and of the sanctity of forgiveness.
(qtd. in Wiesenthal 118).
The quote sent me a message because when I have to make a difficult moral judgment, now I
have to try to process all interpretations and consequences of what my moral judgment could
lead to. The quote also gives me an insight of how people do think because a writer writes about
about someone based off of their thinking process and ideas. By reading someone else’s work, it
is intriguing to me to be in the mind of the writer.
The concept of silence and truth has been debated throughout centuries. The concept of
truth is an important thing in The Sunflower that my impulses are telling me to examine in an
effort to understand. Truth is such an abstract concept which has been debated about by
philosophers. In my Logic class, I learned about different interpretations of truth. There is a
concept called the relativity of truth which states the fact that reasonable person believing
something to be the truth does it makes it true. In The Art of Thinking, there is a statement by the
author that relates to what I had in my philosophy class and it also gives a new perspective about
“truth” when he stated:
. . . intelligent people can be heard saying things such as “Everyone makes his or her own
truth,” “One person’s truth is another person’s error,” “Truth is relative,” and “Truth is
constantly changing.” All of these ideas undermine thinking. If everyone makes his or
her own truth, then no idea can be better than another’s. All ideas must be equal, what is
the point in researching any subject? Why dig into the ground for answers to
archaeological questions? Why probe the causes of tension in the ? Why
search for a cancer cure? Why explore the galaxy? (Ruggiero 27)
I learned from Ruggiero’s statement that if everybody can make their own truth then why is
there still a need to look for answers? It is because of human nature, who know? I was
fascinated by the essays written in response to Wiesenthal’s question. I think that the writers’
responses are correlated to what they believe is true, but they are still prone to human errors. In
my thinking process regarding about making a moral judgments, I have to start questioning if
my beliefs are true.
In conclusion, my thinking process has been shaped after reading The Sunflower. It is
because I have a different perspective on things like truth and silence. I have been forced to try
to understand other people’s opinions regarding moral judgments. I wish that the question about
morality was a small issue, but it is not. It is because there is a juxtaposition of good and evil
within one’s conscience, this was shaped by socialization. No matter what we know, there is
always a doubt in our mind about whether or not our interpretation of morality is correct.
Ruggiero, Vincent R. The Art of Thinking. 8th ed. Pearson Education, Inc., 2007. 27.
Wiesenthal, Simon. The Sunflower. Revised and Expanded ed. : Schoken Books Inc.,
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