Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Disgraceful conduct by a Colombia University Professor

Yesterday I watched the live broadcast of a speech that the Iranian President had been invited to give at Colombia University.

At least that's what I tuned in to watch.

What I got was a long verbal assault on the President by a Colombia professor who was supposed to be doing an introduction.

He was rude, inaccurate, cowardly, and did a great disservice to his university and to the good name of American hospitality.

If you think a man is vile, you have every right to say so, but if you invite him as your guest then you should treat him (and the rest of us) with respect. If you can’t do that, then you should be honorable enough not to accept the task of introducing your guest.

For the most part, this professor's actions backfired.

The Iranian President (a man I approached with deep suspicion) came across as reasonable and honorable by comparison to the Professor, who sounded like one of those communist apparatchiks that used to disparage democracy and defend communism.

Can you imagine President Bush trying to cope with similar treatment if he had been invited to address the students at Oxford or perhaps Tehran?

The professor's introduction also colored my response to the questions asked to the President. It is fair enough to ask questions that put a President on the spot but it seemed to me that these questions showed a lack of self-awareness by the (American) students asking them. The questions were valid enough but the implied context was “How can you do this? Why aren’t you like us?” when perhaps the problem is that there are too many similarities between America and Iran.

The President was asked about why he is developing nuclear power, as if such a thing was outrageous, yet America is the only nation ever to have used nuclear weapons and leads the world in their development.

He was asked why he supports terrorists, yet America has long fought proxy wars by sponsoring terrorists including terrorists who have attacked Iran. Without the American people the terrorists in Northern Ireland would have been much less well funded.

He was asked why women are not accorded equal rights with men, yet America has an astonishingly high rate of violence against women and has consistently refused to amend the constitution to grant women equal rights.

He was asked why homosexuals are victimized in Iran. He replied that there are no homosexuals in Iran. This is an answer the Christian Right in America hold dear in their hearts. An answer like that could make be enough to get a man elected to the Senate.

The most interesting question was - why did he want to go to the site of the WTC. He explained that he wanted to pay his respects and looked puzzled that this needed any explanation.

But then the whole event showed that, at least in Columbia University, respect is a concept that is not understood.

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