Thursday's Child ... has far to go ... (0nm10wn2feet) wrote,
Thursday's Child ... has far to go ...
0nm10wn2feet

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How NOT to treat one’s guests...

A rant... peering behind the cut will subject you to the ravings that afflict me in the middle of the night.  I know I promised to finish the last nine chapters of "Hallowed Desire" first, but this just bubbled up last night and I couldn't keep it down.  I am, however, on the last stage of those aforementioned last chapters... that counts for something, right??  Oh, never mind... who am I trying to kid? *grins*

Let me start this by saying, up front, that I have never harbored any sympathy for any leader of ANY militaristic, chauvinist, totalitarian regime.  Indeed, although I once knew, and befriended, several Iranian students when working at WMU, I have never harbored any great love for the hardline Islamists that run said nation.

Like many of their ilk, they are so enthralled with their 'religion' that they think nothing of attempting to force it upon all within their sphere of influence.  THAT is an injustice to all who might not share the same view.  The methods whereby they force this view down the throats of others are cruel, brutal and de-humanizing.  The people that condone this behavior have strayed so far from human ideals that they barely deserve the appellation.

That having been said, however, I cannot condone what happened to Iranian President Ahmadinejad at Columbia University on Monday.  Unless the man was told, upfront, that his acceptance of their invitation was also an acceptance to being publicly chastised, I believe what the University President, Lee Bollinger did was completely uncalled for.  Frankly, I was embarrassed to think that one of my countrymen could so far forget the bounds of polite behavior and so thoroughly seek to humiliate an invited GUEST.

Regardless of Ahmadinejad's policies, regardless of his inflammatory public utterances, this man was an INVITED GUEST at a supposedly prestigious American institution of "higher education."  For Bollinger to state, in his own defense, that Ahmadinejad was aware that there would be "sharp and direct questions and statements" is, I feel, rather disingenuous.  Unless it was made clear to Ahmadinejad that the "sharp and direct questions" would be of an accusatory and inflammatory nature, that statement does not absolve Bollinger from his responsibility, on behalf of Columbia University, to temper his VERY personal remarks.

Make no mistake, Bollinger did not just criticize Ahmadinejad's policies and government.  He made direct references to the man, himself, in a most derogatory fashion.  He used his 'introduction' to launch not only attacks on the government and policies of Iran, as a whole, but also on the individual that represents that country as its leader.  In the interest of fostering 'open and frank' discussion of opposing viewpoints, one must not lose sight of basic human niceties, if you will.  Bollinger's 'slash and burn' introduction did just that.

More importantly, however, despite his assertion that Ahmadinejad supposedly knew exactly what to expect when he accepted the invitation to speak, Bollinger's remarks cast a shadow on America, as a whole, before the entire Islamic world.  Let's face it, most Islamic moderates in the Middle East are almost as disdainful of the United States, vis a vis our regrettable invasion of a sovereign nation in their area, as are the hardliners.  How the hell are we supposed to foster tolerance and understanding in a region that has ample reason to distrust ANY American, if people like Bollinger insist on treating their leaders with such callous disregard for the politesse called for in EITHER culture?  Add that to the general unrest engendered merely by Ahmadinejad having been invited to speak, and moderate Islamists are bound to feel that the United States holds the whole of Islam in total disregard.

I certainly don't think that Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University had the effect that might have been intended when the invitation was extended.  I get the feeling that Americans abroad will now have to be even more vigilant because of the disrespect with which an Islamic leader was treated by someone who SHOULD have known better.  Is it REALLY a good idea to poke at the leader of a people who already feel that the United States considers them less than human, a people who feel that our country embodies Satan with all his evil cunning?  Is it really wise to anger the supporters of the leader of a country that has been known to assist 'terrorists?'  Did Bollinger really intend to offend the entire Arab world by treating an invited guest with such unprecedented public rudeness?  I don't believe that Bollinger's behavior went very far toward dispelling any long-held negative impressions that Islamic moderates might hold of Americans in general, that's for damn sure!

My own feeling is that, as a country, America needs to do one HELL of a lot more to improve our image in the Middle East.  We have been seen for decades as a co-oppressor to the Palestinians due to our practically unconditional support of Israel.  We have no qualms about bombing areas where suspected terrorists might be harbored, regardless of whether or not we're bombing a sovereign nation.  We have opened ourselves for further denunciation by sweeping through Afghanistan and attempting to destroy both the Taliban and Al-Queda.  Then, we committed the ultimate in arrogance and invaded Iraq on the feeble premise that they possessed the now-infamous "weapons of mass destruction," as well as harbored Al-Queda operatives.

We have completely decimated what little infrastructure was present in Iraq prior to our invasion, and we have done very little to restore what we so giddily destroyed.  We have killed thousands of civilians and termed it 'collateral damage.'  Our so-called "mission" in Iraq has completely morphed into something that so chillingly resembles the mess we had in Viet Nam that I am appalled.  It does not surprise me, nor should it surprise my fellow Americans, that there are no 'warm fuzzies' when people in the Middle East talk about America.  And, we have no one, with the exception of the bungling, ham-fisted, duplicitous Administration currently running this country, to thank for this most disheartening turn of affairs.

We have treated the nations of the Middle East with the same disdain England once showed the Colonies... us.  We continue to marginalize the suffering and sacrifice endured by the Iraqi people by reminding all who will listen of our own 'body count.'  We gloss over the failure of our policies to accomplish even the slightest amount of good in that country with glowing words and paeans to a victory that can never be achieved.  At least, not by an arrogant, invading, non-Islamic outsider like the United States.  'Victory,' in Iraq's case, would be a democratic government that truly represented and cooperated with all sides.  We will not achieve that with our presence there.  Nor will we achieve that when we continue to cast aspersions upon their leaders and the leaders of other Arab nations.

Diplomatically, yes, we SHOULD condemn Ahmadinejad's government and policies.  We SHOULD take him to task for the outrageous statements he has made regarding Israel, the Holocaust, Jews and homosexuals.  We SHOULD hold Iran accountable for what they do with their nuclear capability.  But we should do these things in the proper forum.  I don't think Columbia University was that forum.

"The world will not change until we do."
- Jim Wallis 1994 (1948-?); The Soul of Politics: A Practical and Prophetic Vision for Change 3, 1994

"O! it is excellent
To have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant."
- William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure 1604, act 2, sc. 2, l. 107
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