Iranian President Ahmadinejad is in town, as of this writing, sparking "protests" (although I have to be honest, I don't see that many around here) and contraversy. Personally, I don't see the contraversy. He should be allowed to speak, of course, and freely. He may say things that I don't agree with, even things I find incredibly offensive. But that doesn't stop the GOP from declaring war on Gay Rights and Immigration and Abortion Rights.
Are our beliefs so fragile that they can't withstand opposing points of view? Frankly, aren't abhorrent points of view (Holocaust denial) better aired and simply discarded and discredited? Free discussion is the lifeblood of a reasonable society. The fact that Ahmadinejad is having a moderated discussion at Columbia University is a very good thing. It exposes him to direct criticism. That's something that our own President tries very hard to avoid.
I'd also like to add that the refusal of the US to allow Ahmadinejad to leave a wreath at the Towers is pretty revolting. There were no Iranians on those planes... mostly Saudis (our allies) as far as I understand.
What scares people is nuance. There's far more gray area in his visit than the media likes to cover or that our society likes to absorb. For example, Ahmadinejad isn't particularly powerful Iran... there is far more power in the religious arm of the government. And while nuclear power in the hands of Iran is dangerous, it appears as if Iran is a rational actor in its own interests, and that it doesn't appear (at least from what I've read) to be seeking nuclear arms in order to wage war and, effectively, turn the entire world against it. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial isn't unique to him in the Middle East. I'd be curious what a poll of the Iraqi Parliament's views of Israel would show their views to be. That's not to defend that point of view remotely. It's simply to identify that it appears to be a symptom of other problems, as opposed to evidence of Ahmadinejad's lone mania.
Anyhow...I'm curious what other think of his visit. Personally, I'm embarrassed by the news coverage thus far.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.