With Ahmadinejad scheduled to speak twice today, once downtown at the U.N. and once four blocks away from me at Columbia, I wanted to share my own thoughts on the protests and on the visit itself.
I think it’s great that Ahmadinejad is speaking at Columbia. The man is a monster, and he’s shaping global politics. College students grapple with intellectual problems in books, but this is a rare opportunity for 20-year-old kids to question a powerful world leader with whom they vehemently disagree. And he has to sit there and answer, or at least listen to, the questions! People who yell that he’s taking advantage of our free speech when he doesn’t allow it in his own country are missing the point. He HAS a platform to say whatever the hell he wants in his own country, uncontested, and everyone has to listen to him. Here, his audience gets to talk back, to fire questions at him, to tell truth to power. This isn’t his taking advantage, it’s our opportunity.
Where I have the problem is the other half of the visit: his speech before the U.N. I hate that this monster has an opportunity to speak before world leaders and diplomats. I hate that he has enough clout that we have to negotiate issues of terrorism, pollution, economic policy with him, that our government will have to offer concessions and work with his agenda if they want to contain or mitigate the damage he can do. I wish that we could relegate him to the position of intellectual exercise for college students. And maybe that’s what the protest is really about: not Ahmadinejad speaking at Columbia, but the larger fact that we can’t change, that, monster that he is, he is powerful enough that we actually have to negotiate with him.
My brother just swung by in the pouring rain with Mexican chocolate chip pecan cookies for me. They are utterly, utterly delicious. Also, we laughed until we couldn’t breathe. Life is good.
We now return to the sounds of happy munching.
P.S. He had a question I wasn’t able to answer satisfactorily. Is there a usage difference between “badly” and “poorly”?
Madeline L’Engle was always one of the three creatives I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved her characters; there was something very true about them, both how textured they were but also the fact that who they had the potential to be as children didn’t necessarily play out in adulthood; that sometimes the choices we make to go through one door or stave off one disaster quash or kill other important parts of us. L’Engle’s books challenged me as a second grader (when some parts were frankly over my head) and continued to challenge me as I grew. They still blow me away every time I read them.
But most of all, from an early age I admired her spritual integrity. Her characters were religious without sermonizing or evangelizing; religion was just the lens through which they saw the world, just as much as their scientific understanding and curiosity. That balance of holding on to what’s meaningful to you without trying to sell it or push it on the audience was something I very much wanted to emulate as a writer.
I had the good fortune to hear her speak twice in high school; both times I found her a charismatic, grounded woman, comfortable with her own power. She could electrify an audience in person as deftly as she could with her written words. She will be sorely missed.
My brother’s back from his (somewhat ill-timed) Grecian holiday, well-rested and completely unsinged. And as of Sunday, he was finally all moved into his new place, after some heroic effort. His new place looks great, and I’m so happy that everything’s coming together for him.
On the other hand, I kept waking up in the middle of the night after he moved out, looking over to where his bed should be and getting all confused and disoriented by the empty apartment. So first thing Monday morning, I did something I’ve been promising myself for a while; I rearranged my apartment to create a little writing carrel, because I’m a total claustrophile and prefer small spaces. I was expecting it to look horrible (which is why I hadn’t done it sooner) but actually, it doesn’t block the light or take away from the awesomeness of the fireplace, so it’s all good. Now the apartment feels much less empty, and I’m really starting to enjoy the space again.