Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Respect - and a World Leader

In reading of the controversial appearance of the Iranian leader at Columbia University yesterday I find it difficult to accept the "introduction" that Columbia University's President gave before the Iranian leader was allowed to speak.

I need not have any appreciation of the Iranian leader to feel like an introduction of him as a speaker should show some basic respect for him. I think it important to distinguish between respecting one invited to speak before one and questioning such a person - seeking answers to specific questions.

In the 1980's I went to see Louis Farrakhan speak at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Hearing him speak was an "education" and very helpful for me. I clearly heard him as a charismatic - indeed spellbinding speaker who was very intelligent. He seemed quite rational and on target in many ways. Unfortunately Anti-Semitism - was dominant in his thoughts and intervened regularly as Blaming Jews - being totally irrational and indeed crazy in this area - got in the way of most everything he spoke of.

Listening to Farrakhan - it was clear that he had the "surface" support of many, predominantly poorer Black people, but was hardly a political force to be reckoned with. Understandably many, particularly Jews, thought him a serious threat.

Hearing Farrakhan helped me understand a lot! Not having an opportunity to hear him would have denied others and me a good opportunity to learn various things.

I think that it is a good idea to listen to others whose ideas we may find distasteful! It is important to "protect" ourselves from threats to our being. It is unclear to me how we can not both take seriously any potential threats from countries such as Iran, while listening and respecting someone such as this man who was invited to speak at Columbia University.

Clearly - when he said that there were no Gay/Lesbian people in Iran, we have a right to react to his words. Respecting him as a person need not mean that we find his words accurate or always respecting others or ourselves.

It was sad when Senator Obama was ridiculed for saying that he would meet with "enemy" leaders if asked to do so by them in his first year as President of the U.S. Meeting with "the enemy" is a good idea! We all can learn from our "enemies". In some cases we can break down barriers that separate us. If they truly are "bad", we should have enough respect for ourselves and our leaders to feel that our leaders could see through attempts to mislead us.

Talking and listening is important! Silencing others doesn't work. Iran's leader evidently has a lot of respect because he will stand up to President Bush/The U.S. and speak out against Israel.

It would be nice if we could honestly work in the U.S. both to create a just peace in Palestine/Israel/Gaza and more generally to have a lot more respect in The Arab World as well as in many other countries.

I am sad and angered! Thanks!

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