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Because I Say So: The Dangerous Appeal of Moral Authority Paperback – June 1, 2010

4.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

What a thoughtful and refreshing rejection of the various bad habits narrow-mindedness, intellectual laziness, self-pity, self-indulgence, free-floating rage that drives today's awful frenzy of self-righteousness in our national conversation. Nikki Stern is a model of the even-keeled grace, tolerance and common sense that Americans need to rediscover. --Kurt Andersen, host, public radio s Studio 360

Nikki Stern wields her enviable wit to tilt at society's windmills in a voice empowered by her starring role in arguably the most seminal event of our lifetimes. The painful and public loss of her husband on September 11 and the changes to her life since that day mirror the patterns of loss, anger, despair and rebuilding that our nation as a whole continues to experience. Before you know it, you'll feel a sense of optimism born of the notion that if she can greet each day with humor, intelligence and yes, hope then it seems possible that we may all collectively as a nation be able to do so as well. --Christal Smith, The Huffington Post

In this impassioned and important book, Nikki Stern drawing on the personal tragedy that led to her own brush with the rabbit hole of fame asks us to reject preconceived notions about who we believe and what we decide is true. Stern makes a persuasive case that we can find new ways to reconnect to our moral and rational center, ones that are less reliant on the received opinion of famous or notorious Americans." --Leif Wellington Haase, director, California Program

About the Author

Nikki Stern worked as a public relations executive before the death of her husband in the World Trade Center on 9/11. While serving on the board and as the first executive director of Families of September 11, a national organization for families affected by the terrorist attacks, she was co-recipient of a Common Ground award in 2005 from the global conflict transformation group, Search for Common Ground. She has maintained advocacy roles on the advisory boards of Project Rebirth, Americans for Informed Democracy, and the Public Diplomacy Collaborative at Harvard University s Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, and USA Today.<BR><P>Nikki retains an interest in public engagement and global diplomacy as well as topics concerning women, writing, and humor. She blogs regularly about politics, culture, entertainment, and other issues of both greater and lesser importance, 1 Woman s Vu.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Bascom Hill Books (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935456083
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935456087
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,171,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nikki Stern is the author of HOPE IN SMALL DOSES, a 2015 Eric Hoffer Montaigne Medal finalist given to non-fiction works that inspire, provoke, and redirect thought. Her other book, BECAUSE I SAY SO, reviews the absence of and misdirected craving for moral authority. Nikki's has contributed to BEYOND ZUCCOTTI PARK (New Village Press) and GLOBAL CHORUS (Rocky Mountain Books) and to a series of interactive murder mystery plays by author David Landau (Samuel French). Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, and USA Today. She's been a guest on NPR's "All Things Considered" and CBS "Sunday Morning," among others. On a personal note, she has a dog to whom she's devoted and a bike she likes to ride. For more on Nikki, visit http://nikkistern.com, like her at https://www.facebook.com/NikkiSternAuthor?ref=hl or tweet her @realnikkistern

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Nikki Stern writes with clarity and strength, gently leaning on her tragic experience as a 9/11 widow to make her points. She is skeptical, confident and wise, rejecting our emphasis on celebrities and faux moral authority, and leading us to accept uncertainty in a world of uncertainties.
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Format: Paperback
This is a memoir with a moral dimension, one founded on humility. Nikki Stern was thrust by circumstances--her husband's death in the 9/11 acts of terror that Janet Napolitano famously euphemized as "man-caused disasters"--into a position where she was publicly identified as a moral authority, through no act of her own. The discomfort produced by that unwanted designation sets her off on a rumination as to what or who, exactly, is a moral authority.

With a calm and reasonable tone that reminds one of Peggy Noonan with a left-of-center perspective, Stern dissects moral authorities of various stripes and finds them wanting. She doesn't slip over into that moral agnosticism that Robert Frost said was characteristic of liberals, "so broad-minded that they can't take their own side in a quarrel," and raises important questions for consumers of mass media experts and self-appointed pontificators.

If what you are looking for is a modern-day version of Kant's categorical imperative this is not the book for you, but if your heart is looking for answers on questions of right and wrong, you'll find comfort in the journey described here.
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Format: Paperback
Nikki Stern balances her challenge to the legitimacy of "moral authority" with her enthusiasm for critical thinking skills that are key to our ability to figure out what's going on in our lives and in the world. While her topic is serious, her writing style draws the reader in as if in conversation with a friend.
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Nikki Stern has woven a touching personal memoir into an observation on one of the most dangerous failings of what's become known as conventional wisdom: the tendency of the American public to assume, for no good reason and without question that what a person says in a public or professional forum must be true; no questions need be asked. We have fallen prey to the lowest common factor in the cult of personality: if a person finds (or is given) a venue from which to spout an idea, whether it be sound and fact-based, a bald-faced lie or just plain blather, the tendency of the public is to swallow it whole without question or thoughtful analysis. Worst yet is when there is some sort of back story or credential that helps convey the notion of moral authority where none is warranted. The failure of critical thinking in our society has made this book a must-read. No longer are facts, reason and logic required to form public opinion: someone can merely say something and, like a certain doctor of physiology who became a self-styled psychologist and authority on everything, people come out of the woodwork telling us things are so simply "Because I Say So."

Ms. Stern's own experience with this strange phenomenon is explicated via her personal tragedy and loss resulting from the events of 9/11. In losing her husband that day, she came to discover shortly that this somehow conveyed to her a notion, in the minds of others, that she possessed moral authority on many topics, from the event itself to how one ought to react, to foreign affairs and on and on. Her recognition of that process and her reacting with equanimity and intelligence gave us this little treasure of a book. Not since Erich Fromm's "The Sane Society" have I read anything as lucid and meaningful on the subject. A must read -- for anyone who aspires to sanity, clarity and, yes, peace.
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Format: Paperback
I was impressed with the insightfulness with which this book was written. As she touches all our "sacred cows" from religion, to politics, celebrity to our revered physicians and questions if these are the sources we should be looking to for moral authority. Nikki states that "no matter what our belief's, however, our skepticism ought to extend to anyone who claims to act on a higher authority's behalf".

Nikki lost her husband on September 11, 2001. He worked at the World Trade Center. It was through many experiences as a "9/11 widow" that she came to see how the cloak of moral authority would be draped on her and other relatives and survivors of this disaster. Not because they necessarily deserved it, or had the knowledge but due only to perception.

The message Nikki leaves us with in her book is that we need to think for ourselves, trust our own judgment. "We need to learn the art of critical thinking" she writes. Just because someone in authority or is well respected makes the statement "Because I Say so", doesn't make it so.
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