Mahmud (some spell it Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad, the charismatic and U.S.-bashing president of Iran, is here.
By here, I mean New York City, New York, United States of America. He's been at Columbia University. He's been on Charlie Rose's show. Now, he's talking to the United Nations General Assembly. If you're anything like me, you should be smiling from ear to ear knowing that his very visit demonstrates why this country, unlike just about any other in superpower history, is great.
Now, don't misread or misconstrue my words. This isn't one of those essays about why America is the greatest country to ever exist or why the U.S. deserves to be the world's only lasting superpower. Instead, this is a brief opportunity to remind you about one of the coolest, most underrated, principled aspects of our government: free speech.
From Darwin to DMX, from John F. Kennedy to Judas Priest, from Malcolm X to Jay-Z, free speech has been cherished in this country for decades, but Ahmadinejad's visit means more. Did Hitler visit London in 1940 and speak at Oxford? Don't think so. Will Ahmadinejad invite the Pope for a live appearance on national TV? Doubtful. Will China let its citizens surf the Internet freely? Not anytime soon.
Ahmadinejad coming here, in the middle of the Iraq war (that he may be playing a role in) and just years after 9/11 and all while continuing to bad-mouth the U.S., is unprecedented in modern foreign policy history. Not so much the visit, as the fact that we're giving him additional forums (i.e. Columbia University, Charlie Rose's show, C-SPAN) to communicate directly to us and the rest of the world. And it's not like the White House approved this guy's talking points. Shit, I bet he doesn't even have talking points outside of "America has homosexuals," "America is a greedy imperialistic nation," and "America is contradictory for telling Iran and North Korea not to have nuclear weapons when they have more than just about all the world's other nations combined."
We could literally be at war with this man, and his country, before the end of this decade. But none of that matters. All that matters is free speech.
That's pretty fuckin' awesome.
[Next on the calendar: The "Us" vs. U.S. Roundtable headlined by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cuba Dictator Fidel Castro, Iran's Ahmadinejad, North Korea's Kim Jong-il and Hamas leader Khalad Mashaal.]