Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be speaking today at Columbia University in the City of New York — and as a graduate of Columbia — I applaud putting into action the mandate and creed that was embedded and steeped into me from that fine Ivy League university: The Moral Obligation to Listen.
There is no greater outrage in a free society that pretends to plead democratic ideals than to repress protest and scuttle — via political pressure and police action — the free expression of ideas from world leaders even if we disagree with what is being argued.
Columbia University is doing the right thing by letting a leader of an important nation speak on their campus no matter how much we may not like what he claims.
Allowing Ahmadinejad access to a public forum does not mean the forum supports what is being said. The forum merely allows for the open expression — and the direct examination of — ideas that may be pleasing or dangerous and that is the role and the job of a university. There is great value in knowing where, why and how your enemies stand against you.
There is an important, if unpopular, expression of democracy in burning an American flag as well as in listening to foreign leaders who do not hide their hate for you.
Listening does not mean agreeing.
I have always been an advocate for hearing out the insane and crazy when they are in positions of world power and national influence because it allows us to listen with our own ears and comprehend with our own eyes the spite and spittle that erupts from their throats and fingers.
I prefer to know the intent and purpose of those who claim to be my sworn enemy rather than guessing their game and making up convenient lies against political enemies that will later take us to war. The line between madman and liar is drawn by those on each side of the chasm of human expression and it is during that act of carving when nations begin to budge on boundaries and press unwanted participation in nation building — and the unfortunate result is always much more bloody and real than just listening.