Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Upper East Side, Sept. 2007

Our big controversy has been the visit from the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As you’ve probably seen on the news, his appearance at Columbia University was attended by a zillion demonstrators, including many who said he should never have been allowed to speak. He wasn’t allowed to visit ground zero.

I don’t get this. We’re supposed to be a free country, and it seems to me that the way to counter hateful perspectives is to permit their expression and then point out how wrong they are. Pushing someone away, trying to shut them down before they say anything, is not the way to resolve differences. It only makes them stronger. Ahmadinejad believes some scary things - he insists there are no gay people in Iran, for example, though people have been repeatedly executed there for gay activity. But the only way to counter such bigotry is to air it out and then point out its wrongness.

I keep thinking about those surveys that show people’s acceptance of gays in general skyrockets once they know a gay individual personally. Ahmadinejad thinks he doesn’t know any. For him, it’s all a big abstraction.

So should his views be aired at Columbia? Well, like it or not, the guy is one of the leaders of a country that’s going to play a critical role in our foreign policy. Aren’t we supposed to know our adversaries? And maybe if we listen to them, find a starting point for change? Refusing to engage an adversary just allows hostility to flourish.

And so he wanted to go to Ground Zero. Why not? Iran didn’t destroy the World Trade Center. None of the hijackers were Iranian. Wouldn’t it do the Muslim world some good to see Ahmadinejad laying a wreath at the site, paying respects? Wouldn’t that remind extremists of the essential humanity of the victims?


Anonymous said...

You're so good, thoughtful, reasonable. If 3% of Americans were as thoughtful as you, I would say yes yes yes yes of course!!

Who decided that he would not be allowed to visit Ground Zero?

As for the protesters, that's the American way (supposedly). They have a right to say he shouldn't speak - as ironic as that is.

As for what Ahmadinejad really thinks, who knows? He might be gay himself - those who resist the idea most dramatically tend to end up in train station bathrooms, busted for acting out their true natures. Public statements from people like Larry Craig and that pastor, forget his name, about how awful or invisible gay people are, simply reflect their self loathing.

As for traditional, fundamentalist Islam, though, who knows WHAT it means?

Thought provoking post - thank you!!

Anonymous said...

well said steve. besides, don't we have bigger issues with this guy than him being a bigot- like the nuclear weapons his country is possibly making.

Anonymous said...

Reya: The police prevented him from going to Ground Zero. I agree about protesters - they can certainly say what they want to, and in fact I have no argument with those protesting Ahmadiinejad's message(s). I'm only opposed to the idea that he should be prohibited from speaking. (Interesting idea that he might be gay himself -- kind of scary, though, too.)

J$: Absolutely! And we have to be able to TALK to them about the nukes - and that means hearing what he has to say!

Anonymous said...

Steve, I could not agree with you more - unfortunately, this kind of behavior seems typical of far too many Americans --- and these same people wonder why there is so much bad stuff going on or why people in other places hate us so much.