Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Persian Apologist, or Xenophobia Anyone?

You can avert your eyes, but not your ears. The man in the next booth at your favorite restaurant is asking why schools teach Spanish, but not English. The woman behind you in the checkout line is relating how her brother lost his 50K a year job to an illegal immigrant. You manage to suppress your desire to laugh at these individuals, but not the need to question their sanity. After all, only those with serious mental impairment would be that xenophobic...

Yet, perhaps a little wariness comes genetically built in. Why else would we be surprised that the December graduation speaker at the University of North Alabama holds dual American and Iranian citizenship? Haleh Esfandiari is an impressive woman. If you doubt it, read her biography on Wiki.

Still, we're surprised there's actually a market in the US for Persian studies unless those students plan a career in the CIA...or perhaps a cloistered life living in their parents' garage apartment. Ms. Esfandiari is also a champion of women's rights, at least in the Middle East. We're not sure what that would entail in countries where women are not allowed to even drive, much less vote. Nevertheless, this sounds positive, and we're pretty sure Bill Gates isn't available to speak on December 17th.

Let's continue reading her bio. In 2007, Esfandiari was detained while visiting Iran and forced to remain in that country for over three months before being released. And her release? Apparently the fact that she's a noted apologist for Iran's heritage and culture was the deciding factor in restoring her freedom.

And the main factor for UNA choosing Ms. Esfandiari? According to Vice President of Student Affairs David Shields:
“She provides a profile of courage and leadership and inspires graduates to be champions with a great responsibility to help the world.”

Indeed some graduates will see the world. Some will see a battlefield in Afghanistan. Others will remain in Alabama, perhaps even choose to stay in the Shoals with its second to last wages and standard of living. We feel pretty certain that in ten years most won't remember Esfandiari's speech at all, but just to be on the safe side, next year could we bring in Hank Hill?