Friday, January 04, 2008

Letter to Bob Kerrey

(Bob Kerrey served in the United States Senate representing Nebraska, 1989-2001. He ran for President in 1992 and became president of the New School University in New York City, where I went to college. To hear what he said, and his response to the controversy over what he said, visit here.)


Pres. Bob Kerrey
The New School
New York, NY

Dear Sir,

It gave me some pleasure to learn you would become president of my alma mater in 2001. I thought well of you as a Senator, and appreciated your presence on the 9/11 Commission. You struck me as a man of decency and frankness as well as experience.

My high estimation of you made it all the more surprising and disappointing to witness your transparent, if sly, effort to smear Senator Obama with seeming praise, connecting him to a religion that is not his own, in order to exploit islamophobia and hinder his candidacy. Having considered your remarks over time and your later clarification, the motive and method remain obvious.

I was a student at your university during the first Persian Gulf war, a period that witnessed a spike in anti-Islamic and anti-arabic attitudes. To encounter this behavior in the president of the university where, fifteen years ago, I studied Islamic history and sociology; where we protested incidents of scapgoating and bigotry; where I studied under faculty members from Iran and Syria - sir, it shames the university.

It shames your candidate, Senator Clinton, by associating her with slimy politicking.

Most of all, it shames you: appealing to the worst in us for some fleeting influence in a primary campaign. I expect this of people in politics who have proven they lack conscience. I expect this of Bill Bennett, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney. You had cut a very different figure with me; now I have to wonder.

As an alumnus of the New School and an American, I write you to express my revulsion. Muslims (and Barack Obama is in fact not a muslim, but a Christian) are not here to be used as boogeymen by national figures. You robbed one man of his dignity by perpetuating a myth about him, yet worse still, you robbed a great number of muslim citizens of their dignity.

I call that dismal.

Most Sincerely,

etc.

Eugene Lang College
Class of 1993


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