Bollinger Setup was No Class Match for Pres. Ahmadinejad
28 September 2007:
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited New York the week of 23 September 2007. While New York is generally considered the most hospitable city in the United States...it was not so to President Ahmadinejad.
This writer abandoned the menstruation of mass media headlines long ago --except for stories he chooses to read or publish on this website-- the head is clearer, the thought process absorbs spoken word, and this writer admits to not being hypnotized by corporate and government sponsored news in the United States. The president's visit was an opportunity to learn --first hand-- how he thinks, reasons, and operates in Iran.
Lunch with President Ahmadinejad
Days before President Ahmadinejad was to present at Columbia University, I fantasized having the man as a guest to show him how the "average, single, white, middle-aged man" lives in New York City.
Perhaps he would be surprised that his limousine's backseat was larger than my apartment.
I imagine that many of us in New York City live similarly to the poorer class in Tehran, and I'd be curious to know if middle-class, middle-aged males --who hold advanced degrees in Iran-- no longer find job stability; are overburdened by taxes; and lose out to
candidates half their age for jobs based upon Human Resource managers' assumptions of the elder's salary requirement.
I'd ask him how middle-aged males in Iran handle the rage building inside from those actions of governments for which we as single men have no say. I'd ask him if he has heard the term "angry black man" and draw a picture of O.J. Simpson...and then I'd say, "Multiply Simpson's rage 10-fold to better understand the anger brewing inside" of his pale-faced host.
In the United States we define this as a "walking time-bomb," but at least through essay analysis rage can be held at bay -- for a time.
The new economy in the United States benefits men at Columbia University though...the real host of President Ahmadinejad. The president was treated quite differently at Columbia than he would have been in this apartment.
In this fantasized lunch and tea I would have shaken his hand and offer him the most comfortable chair of the two I own. I'd present the best good eats my budget would allow.
The president of Iran and I would discuss politics for however much time he could afford to spend.
I'd ask him if various perceptions I hold of Iran were true.
I'd ask him to explain the circumstances of
Ziba (Zahra) Kazemi's death.
Topics during tea would touch upon Iran's policies towards Israel, energy, education, equality, economic growth, and freedom to practice or forgo religion. I'd ask President Ahmadinejad about Iran's involvement in Iraq, but he certainly would be free to lie just as my own president and his administration have lied. I would ask President Ahmadinejad to explain his theories on the Holocaust. I would not ask him about treatment of homosexuals in Iran. If that self-defined community mirrors those of practice the United States, where special privileges sought through law replace a straw man for their play, appropriate treatment cannot be defined. Nonetheless, this topic was addressed at Columbia and is analyzed in detail ahead.
In this household, Iran's president would be free to embrace strong religious values and in exchange this host would request the president's respect for having chosen knowing a godless universe -- one ruled by the same evil men he claimed is the enemy of Iran.
He and I are likely to agree -- all men are inherently evil.
Only wise men find ways out of predisposition to kill and destroy -- by learning how to control the rage inside.
But such a luncheon did not take place in this apartment. For those of us without the privilege of attending or stepping on the campus of Columbia University one-half-mile to my west, Yahoo! and ABC news graciously provided streaming video of the event in full during the lunch hour on 24 September.
President Ahmadinejad's speech was translated in English through an interpreter on the live broadcast.
Lack of class at Columbia University
If class was a measurement of wealth, the president of Columbia University, Lee C Bollinger, is our poorest man behind No.1, President George W Bush. However, Bollinger smells fine post-speech and donations to Columbia University poured in after his rabid introduction of his guest: President Ahmadinejad.
To our readers in Iran: There are some of us in the United States who still differentiate between message board character assassination and that of meeting another living human being
face-to-face. Bollinger has yet to learn that distinction. He acted most unkind...and I praise your president for maintaining dignity in the face of hostility. The media in the United States too failed to listen to your president. They have their own agenda an allegiance with our White House and to the advertising brand called Columbia University.
To our native speaking English readers: The majority in the United States is under the assumption that English is the world's most spoken language. It is not by the way, but note that when speakers of another language are translated to a local language, the interpreter cannot add the speaker's cultural meaning(s) as it compares with our own. In the simplest of form, "yes" and "no" do not even hold the same absolute meaning outside of English...or sometimes even within English. This explains why saying "yes" or "no" doesn't work in other cultures.
So, when listening to someone speak in a non-English language, one must accept the message lacks all cultural norms and nuances of the speaker's native land and thus requires deeper thought on the part of the listener.
President Ahmadinejad did point out that the media has taken his remarks out of context. The media proved his point again one hour after his speech at Columbia University on 24 September.
The introductory speech from Columbia's president required no translation. He described his university’s long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate..."It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices. To hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible."
Bolligner's act however countered his own employer's history by defining President Ahmadinejad the way our White House requested. The meeting was not meant to be a debate, nonetheless, Bollinger could have asked his debate questions in a non-offensive manner. As the CEO of such a powerful university brand who clearly should know better -- Bollinger lacked class.
President Ahmadinejad politely told his host that using personal attacks when introducing a guest speaker was not acceptable practice in Iran. Hence, the difference between a simpleton campus administrator and the leader of one of the world's greatest and oldest cultures.
In this writer's interpretation -- President Ahmadinejad stuck with the program because he too is an academic and appears to enjoy discourse: The very foundation of intellectual class.
ANALYSIS ON KEY TOPICS
Bollinger made a queer comment in translating President Ahmadinejad's use of the term "fabricated evidence" in reference to the Holocaust. Bollinger said that, "For the illiterate and ignorant, [so-called Holocaust denial] is dangerous propaganda."
For such an educated man as Bollinger himself proclaims to be, why did he single out illiterate and ignorant people? What he should have said was: "President Ahmadinejad, I think your denial of the Holocaust antagonizes those who have come to accept the Holocaust. Why do you think so many people fear your stand on the subject?"
The question is dependent upon President Ahmadinejad holding the view that he denies evidence of the Holocaust.
Columbia University claims to have a sizeable Jewish alumni, current student body, and faculty. The Holocaust was certainly the most recent catastrophe against the Jewish community and it is understandable that revisiting or challenging the event is an emotional drain.
This writer has read press reports in English interpreting President Ahmadinejad as having stated the Holocaust was a myth.
But this writer has never heard the president say those words. I was hoping to hear --once and for all-- Iran's president deny the Holocaust was part of 20th Century history.
He did not.
Speaking as a scholar, President Ahmadinejad suggested more studies on the event would further bring understanding to what took place across Europe during the first half of the 1900s. He embraces a point worthy of discussion...in no research on the Holocaust to date have I found what human condition(s) enabled the Nazi believers and followers --my ancestry, the Germans-- to carry out, not only torture of the Jews and others, but invasion of Western Europe and Russia. My view of Germany during that time, in the simplest of views, was: The wave of Nazi growth took advantage of a collective inner need for men to be patriots.
Why were there so many Nazi sympathizers across Europe?
Why are there Nazi followers today?
No one can answer those questions in a tight sentence... and if this is what President Ahmadinejad really meant in terms of defining the Holocaust, then more power to him.
Whether he personally believes in the Holocaust as I do -- well, that is not relevant. His opinion alone would not change mine. His research on the matter may enlighten what I know -- and I do not fear changing my opinion based upon scientific research. Bollinger and others in his class most clearly fear change.
President Ahmadinejad won this argument for now.
The irony of discussing homosexuality from two of the world's most conservative countries is: Which country treats homosexuals better... A) The United States or B) Iran?
Neither nation wins debate points, but for different reasons.
The topic of homosexuality provoked wet-dreams for editors across the United States after President Ahmadinejad's speech. "Homosexuality" was a No.1 headline term for a time on the afternoon of 24 September. Given that the number of homosexuals in the population is small --at 4 percent or less-- using homosexuality to be the most defining moment of President Ahmadinejad's speech was indeed a queer editorial decision.
With the exception of women -- President Ahmadinejad's entire speech centered upon discussion of various minority groups. Women account for 50 percent of the population. Muslims account for about 30 percent of the world's population; residents of the United States account for about 5 percent of the world's population; the Jewish community accounts for two-tenths of 1 percent of the population; and Palestinians account for about one-tenth of 1 percent of the population.
1) In the United States --and perhaps in Iran as well-- there is no common understanding of the term homosexual. Pedophiles, drag queens, gay, transgender, bisexuality, homosexuality, congressional bathroom sex play -- are lumped as a single class involving men.
2) The homosexual community, if such a term indeed exits, in the United States has not defined or taken a stand on its definition to save itself from myths surrounding its cause.
3) In the United States the practice of homosexuality is viewed as "sinful"
by the majority of its citizens, although the views have softened in the past two decades. The two nations share this point of view.
4) In the United States homosexual couples do not have the same legal protection as heterosexual couples -- but this would not be relevant if there were no such rights in more advanced nations. The two nations share this point of view.
The question posed to President Ahmadinejad on homosexuality was likely drawn from reports of human rights abuses against men and the public hanging of two teenagers who were labeled homosexual by the gay-topic press.
First, it is not clear what President Ahmadinejad meant by saying there were no homosexuals in Iran. Did he mean that the practice of pederasty had come to an end in Iran? He did state after the speech that he meant to say there "were not as many homosexuals in Iran" as there seem to be in other countries.
Personal observations can be defined as true. How does President Ahmadinejad define homosexuality? Perhaps the answer is defined in English as pederast, or drag queen.
That question was not asked.
Pederasty, by the way, appears to have been practiced across the Middle East for 1,000 years before being struck down as abhorrent in the middle 19th century.
President Ahmadinejad's longer address within the context of homosexuality centered upon punishing drug traffickers.
Upon reflection of his address, and considering those stories written on drug use amongst homosexual men posted on Think & Ask,
I realized President Ahmadinejad may have been on to a deeper topic -- that perhaps even he was not aware.
In the United States homosexual men --as a group-- are said to report the highest level of recreational drug use of any other class. Is drug use by homosexual men in Iran equal to that of the states? Is the drug culture in Iran in lock-step with a western-designed homosexual community?
No one can answer those questions.
For the sake of argument, if homosexual men (only meaning males who engage in sexual intercourse with other males) in Iran did account for a high percentage of drug trafficking and use, then the president's message could be taken to mean a war on drugs.
Therefore, the real issue should have been: Explain why Iran's punishment for drug use is justified and/or humane? In a broader scope, one could also ask why drug use is so prevalent across the homosexual community.
No one can answer those questions.
One would think the legal and criminal records of the two boys, hung to death for crimes in public square, could be made public in order to answer the human rights abuse charge. One would also think that the United States --with an intelligence department convinced Iran is developing nuclear weapons-- would be able to state the circumstances surrounding the boys' death sentence. Instead, the United States government says it has no more information than what has been reported in the press.
The only evidence supplied by either country suggested the two boys were sentenced to death because they engaged in sexual activity with a third boy.
1) Where the boys involved with drugs?
2) Where the boys innocent?
3) Where the boys acting as would a pedophile?
No one asked those questions of President Ahmadinejad --he offered no explanation-- and there were no winners on this point.
President Ahmadinejad said that Iran has been victimized by terrorists too -- courtesy of previous administrations in the United States.
He requested a visit to the former World Trade Center as the attacks on New York were "a huge event. It led to a lot of many other events afterwards," President Ahmadinejad stated through a translator.
He was 100 percent correct in all of his claims on this topic.
If the root causes of 9.11 are examined properly as Iran's president suggested -- there would be answers to: Why the event occurred; what where the circumstances leading up to the event; who was truly involved; and answer how an event can be prevented in future.
Blowing past 9.11 was a United States' government call. 
Moving on with one's life after 9.11 was the advice of then mayor Rudolph Giuliani and others. And while there are numerous 'conspiracy theories' circulating about 9.11, none of which hold much weight, the truth --and even the 9/11 Commission Report-- failed to answer these questions.
The White House has "no comment" on 9.11 and it works to their advantage. They are not willing to discuss the topic in public. The lack of response feeds myths and conspiracy theories. "No answer" from the White House also proves the government had more to lose through discourse, which President Ahmadinejad and a number of other world leaders recognized early on.
President Ahmadinejad won this point.
President Ahmadinejad said Iran wants nuclear energy since sanctions imposed by the same powers condemning Iran's desire for nuclear energy give the nation no alternative but to fight for what it believes is a given right.
What is good enough for one, is good enough for another, to state in simple English.
So far, there is no legitimate, legal reason to disable or control Iran's ability for creating nuclear energy -- and nuclear arms. Pre-emptive chatter from the White House --the same administration that said "without a doubt" Iraq held weapons of mass destruction-- no longer counts as valid theory.
The United States is the world's weapons of mass destruction leader. Even if Iran boasted of nuclear weapons --ready to use against Israel and Europe-- it could never possibly match those held by the United States. Case closed.
President Ahmadinejad won this point.
Israel is a sore subject for many, and so far there are no winners. While President Ahmadinejad did not specifically answer the question of blowing Israel off the map...he engaged in rather typical university-level cross talk by definition of any culture.
Iran is in the Palestinian camp -- so too are many voters privately in the United States and Europe in contradiction to political powers.
Israel is all grown up now
-- he must be left to make his own mistakes...or to make the right choices in order to achieve a path toward peace with his neighbors.
I personally wanted to hear President Ahmadinejad say "yes" to the "yes or no" request on whether Israel had a right to exist. But, admittedly, I do not understand Iran's academic culture enough to determine whether its president answered appropriately given how academics in that nation engage in political discourse. There is no "yes or no" answer to that question according to President Ahmadinejad.
No one won this point...but Israel could with political leadership.
Bollinger said in his speech, "...If today proves anything it will be that there is an enormous amount of work ahead for all of us."
Those words were not memorable, although true, but for representing a university and his own words, Bollinger provided no structure for defining that work ahead.
At least President Ahmadinejad stated for the record that he was eager to negotiate with other nations in the name of peaceful co-existence. The United States has failed in this regard in the name of terrorism. (AKA: You are with us, or you are against us -- and curse you for trying to find the middle.)
May President Ahmadinejad's next visit to New York allow for deeper discourse.
Observation of the president indicates that he is engaging. Is the president open to understanding a typical "New Yorker's" point of view? Without an enabling environ to foster such discussion -- we may never know.
Observations of Columbia University, and the media in the United States, indicate
neither brand nor editor is prepared to accept that their own judgment(s) may be flawed in
describing President Ahmadinejad. Their actions (collectively) during the past seven years too clearly show they've misunderstood the intentions of the president of the United States.
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