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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

To Harvard Comes Mr. Khatami, Moderate

Mohammad Khatami is the former president of Iran. Mohammad Khatami is regularly described as an Iranian "moderate." Here is an example of Mohammad Khatami's moderate views about that plucky nation called Israel:
"We should mobilize the whole Islamic world for a sharp confrontation with the Zionist regime.... If we abide by the Koran, all of us should be mobilized to kill."
Mohammad Khatami this week is headed to Harvard to participate in a conference entitled (no kidding): "Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence." How did this come about? Here's the background you won't get from the lovely Katie Couric. Harvard looks around the world for leaders with standing to speak on the "ethics of tolerance." Vaclav Havel? Nope. The Dalai Lama? Probably too busy. Eli Wiesel? Too familiar, and also too friendly toward Israel for contemporary Harvard. (Also "too Jewish," is how Harvard's Jewish Studies Department would probably put it.) The university concludes its global survey of tolerance advocates by issuing a formal invitation to Khatami, who is decidedly not too unfriendly toward Israel to suit Harvard in 2006. Formal, as in: "You're the guy we want." Assuming the role of skunk at picnic, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney breaks with the general spirit of inclusiveness and ... what's that other thing Harvard's so good at? — oh, now I remember: respect for diversity. Romney calls the Harvard invitation “a disgrace to the memory of all Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of extremists.” Technically — meaning factually — Romney's right. But Harvard believes in dialogue, you see. Not dialogue with Christians; perish that thought. Not dialogue with people who believe abortion kills little humans. Not dialogue with people who think the nuclear family — one female mom, one male dad, married — still has a lot to offer. Mr. Khatami merits consideration because, as luck would have it, he represents a nation whose leaders hate George W. Bush nearly as much as most Harvard professors. Throw in a self-congratulatory dose of blame-the-West-for-everything multiculturalism, and you begin to see why Mr. Khatami achieves hands down favorite status to speak at a Harvard conference on (loud throat-clearing sound here) tolerance. Romney, meanwhile, is just getting started. Being Republican-Christian-male, which is to say irredeemably reactionary, he orders all state agencies to refuse requests to provide security for the Muslim cleric. To which most sane persons could be seen pumping fists and shouting with enthusiasm: Mittster, you the man. Right on. You rule, dude. End of story? No, it gets better. The Boston police are eager to provide Mr. Khatami full protection so that he, not coy about his desire to destroy Jews and the nation of Israel, can get on with "active and open dialogue" at Harvard. Dialogue about tolerance — did I mention that? Wait. It gets even better, this wonderfully twisted tale of abject moral myopia. The current president of Iran, in comparison with whom we are asked to recognize Mr. Khatami's moderation, says he too plans to come to the USA. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to debate George W. Bush in a country (yes, he said this) "without censorship." As must be evident to all by now, I very much like the thrust of these developments, but only as far as they go. This idea of conducting open-hearted dialogue with nihilist miscreants and slime-coated reprobates is beginning to make a great deal of sense. Suppose Jeffrey Dahmer were still alive. Think. Wouldn't he be more effective delivering lectures at culinary schools, rather than languishing in prison? Dahmer's cannibalism was moderate compared with others in this misunderstood field; 'lil Jeff was a mere Donner in a kitchen of voracious Idi Amins. Think further. If early in his career more people had said, "Oh, I really like your water colors, and those brush strokes, quite nice!" — if young Mr. Hitler had gotten that kind of positive reinforcement, maybe the later European unpleasantness would have been, you know, rather more subdued. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. Yes, I can say that, Yoko. Go ahead. Just try to collect royalties.