Louisiana Politics Everyday

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ahmadinejad, Columbia University, And What Makes Me Proud To Be An American

mag·nan·i·mous (adjective) -

1.generous in forgiving an insult or injury; free from petty resentfulness or vindictiveness: to be magnanimous toward one's enemies.
2.high-minded; noble: a just and magnanimous ruler.
3.proceeding from or revealing generosity or nobility of mind, character, etc.: a magnanimous gesture of forgiveness.

Press accounts and commentary about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the United Nations and speaking engagement at Columbia University are plentiful. They range from the amusingly disapproving to downright disgusted. His comments were as insane as expected from the ironic, "Our people are the freest people in the world," to the utterly hilarious, "The freest women in the world are women in Iran."

However, it is not his philosophy, intelligence, or sanity, that I would like to expand upon, but to explore the level of civility and freedom extended by what is certainly the greatest country in the history of time. What nation over the course of time would have allowed, or even encouraged, a man who exhibits "all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator" opposed to every ideal it holds dear and even to its existence into its borders, much less to lecture at one of its most prestigious centers of learning? What nation would allow him to freely speak without even the threat of retribution or retaliation? What nation would humble itself to listen to his vitriolic and unfounded rantings?

The United States is not a leader because of it military or economic might. It is a beacon because it wants a better society not only for its own but even for those who smile at the thought of its extinction. Despite whatever our allies or enemies might say or believe, The United States of America has been and continues to be long suffering and just in its relationships and confrontations with the powerful and the weak.

Anger, disgust, and confusion are all legitimate feelings to harbor as we play host to a man who embraces hostility and abhors peace. However, I hope irony is not lost. A tyrant who criticizes the consequences of our open society has just enjoyed some of those freedoms we hold most close. I will not pretend that "understanding" and "compassion" will solve our problems with Iran, North Korea, or Al-Qaeda. We might very well need the sword and not the staff. What I do know is that these moments show ourselves and the world that carrying that sword is not a privilege but a burden. One that we bear with wisdom and patience.

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