Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Monsters in the White House Closet

It would seem as if everyone wants to get in print with an opinion of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's performances (I cannot thing of a better word) both prior to (on 60 Minutes) and in the course of his visit to the United States in order to address the General Assembly of the United Nations. So I have tried to invoke a bit of restraint on this particular matter. This is due, in part, to my spending a fair amount of time with transcript texts and realizing that very little has changed since I wrote about Ahmadinejad's approach to discourse back in February. However, now that Tim Dickinson appears to be applying the same level of transcript study to his latest post on the Rolling Stone National Affairs Daily blog, this seems like a good opportunity to compare notes. Here are Dickinson's key observations:

And I was struck by how foreign — alien — Ahmadinejad’s speech was. Starting with his opening, end-timer’s prayer for the return of the 12th imam and running through to his absurd proclamation that “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. I don’t know who’s told you that we have it.” (We do not have it, he ought to have said, because we hang all of our homosexuals.)

It’s worth reading the whole transcript. If only to hear directly from a man who has been diminished to caricature in the collective imagination. He’s clearly dangerous in his Holocaust denial and his designs on wiping out Israel, but he’s also clearly not deranged. He’s clever and dedicated to his worldview. And it’s a mind worth wrapping your head around for a few minutes as you take in U.S. Iranian relations from the Persian perspective.

I agree that Ahmadinejad is "dedicated to his worldview;" but that worldview is so "alien" to the United States that the conceptual distance undermines any hope of fruitful communication. (My first inclination was to invoke the adjective "meaningful;" but I think that would indicate a bias toward our own worldview of rationality.) I would also suggest that the degree of Ahmadinejad’s dedication to his worldview is at the same level of Bush’s to his worldview. At the end of the day, they both see a world whose clean boundaries between good and evil are defined by the wisdom of the heart; and the world, as a whole, is all the worse for each of these men assigning the other to his simplistic “evil” category (not that it would be any better if they were in agreement).

The only thing that depresses me more than this impasse is the way in which the media have decided to make a circus out of it. Meanwhile, Democracy Now spent an hour with Evo Morales this morning; and this was a much better model of what I called a fruitful conversation. Delicate questions were asked with delicacy and were not evaded. Serious questions about relations between Bolivia and the United States were raised and were addressed with calm deliberation. Frankly, I am more concerned about the extent to which our engines of propaganda will be applied to demonize Morales than I am with Ahmadinejad’s “alien” nature.

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