PrezBo (as my Columbia student sister calls him) said this today on Good Morning America:
"It's extremely important to know who the leaders are of countries who are your adversaries, to watch them, to see how they think, to see how they reason or don't reason. To see whether they're fanatical or whether they are sly. These are issues that are right at the core of the world today."
And I agree with him. I agree but we must not simply say it is good to listen to this man speak. Yes there are many things we can learn from this event but what we really get is a platform for a very bad man to speak. The Columbia Coalition, which I suppose is made up of a broad coalition of student groups, put up a flier with a list of groups including, Jews, Women, Gay, Minorities, Zoroastrians, and a few others stating it is not just a fill-in-one-of-these-groups Issue. This was the most powerful poster I saw. As a Jew it spoke to me.
Ahmadinejad should speak and he should be heard, but he also should be kicked out of the UN. He should be held accountable for what he does and says; if he breaks the rules kick him to the curb (preferably behind the UN, First Ave is already big mess). Giving him a platform is only one aspect of free speech. I would argue that giving him a platform without the repercussions only furthers his cause of fascism. The United States is a place of free speech, but to borrow from the right wing bumper sticker slogan, “Freedom is not free.”
If his statements call for the destruction of Israel, as a leader of an enemy state, he should expect to have fight on his hands. If his statements deny the Holocaust he better expect Jews to call him Hitler 2.0. If he calls gays, lesbians and women inferior to heterosexual men, he better expect GLBT and Women’s rights groups to be all over him. His speech is not under the scrutiny of his secret policy in the country, but he better believe that his actions and words will be heard and there will be a forceful reply.
Ahmadinejad is not the only one who will be heard this day; students, teachers, religious leaders, liberals and conservatives will speak against this man. Freedom of speech goes both ways. I welcome his speech but I really hope he gets stuck in the traffic his motorcade is creating!