9.24.2009

Freak show, midtown

So... wow. Looks like the UN was a freak show yesterday, no? I spent my workout last night at the gym listening to the speeches of Ahmadinejad and Gaddafi and... what the what. Not quite sure who Gaddafi paid off to get NINETY-SIX minutes of rambling in front of an international stage.

Obama's speech was, I thought, forceful and thoughtful. What an unfamiliar pleasure to be impressed by one's leader.

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I was a senior in college when the U.S. declared war on Iraq. Immediately upon the declaration, Muhlenberg announced a "teach-in." Classes were canceled for the day and the departments organized discussion groups and learning sessions about various relevant subjects. The language department spoke about how the declaration was seen by other countries around the world. The religion department taught on the different religions of the people who live there. The history department shared a history of the region and background on Saddam. The philosophy department taught on the philosophy of war. It was one of my favorite experiences of college... perhaps why I love the New Yorker festival is that it presents another opportunity for a short-term, yet intense, period of learning.

In any event, inspired by all of the discussion and debate, I headed off in a bus to protest the war in D.C. a few weeks later. There is something incredible about a protest: the energy, the immediate kinship, the mental exercise of deciding where you fall on the spectrum of whatever you're protesting against or for. How refreshing it was to actually DO something about my feelings against the war... it felt like a mix of history and America and freedom of speech and revolution. It felt like believing in something.

I worry that my generation doesn't have as many of these moments as other generations did. I worry that people defer to leaving sarcastic comments on blogs and news articles, from the comfort of their lifestyles.

*

I work around the corner from the U.N. and we've been seeing a bunch of protests and rallys. Many were immigration related, but on a quick jaunt to the library, I passed through the parade of people protesting Ahmadinejad's presidency. The stream of people extended down 3rd Avenue, all holding Iranian flags or posters, all chanting about needing the truth of the presidency and mourning the loss of the innocent people who have been killed or tortured by this government. "Rock on," I thought to myself as I passed by them.

I doubt I have any Iranian or Libyan readers, but in case I do, chin up. Your leaders demonstrated irresponsible leadership yesterday in the best case, and extremely dangerous leadership in the worst. But we don't assume that the entire country believes what these two men assert. There's the reality that a people is represented by one figure and the simultaneous given that one person can never represent the truth of all his or her constituents.

We spent 8 years coming to terms with that.

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