NEW YORK -- Here I am in our nation's apple, or Big Apple as the phrase has it. Its air has recently been polluted by the foul oratory of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (always pronounced with a jazz beat) and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. Speaking at the United Nations, they appeared back to back, as unhygienic as that may sound. Chavez called the president of the United States "the devil." Ahmadinejad, wearing his trademark Sears Roebuck windbreaker, took the high ground, speaking of "humanity … commitment to the truth, devotion to God, quest for justice, and respect for the dignity of human beings" -- particularly if the womenfolk appear in burlap bags and the men pray in Islam's traditional "bottom's up" position.
The image of America that these haranguers summon up is that of some nationalistic behemoth that is about to roll over on the lesser nations of the earth. To hear them roar the United States is a vast menacing race, threatening … well threatening "humanity," "truth" "justice," and the "dignity of human beings," as the Iranian rabble-rouser put it.
Perhaps he should have stayed in New York a while longer and looked around. America is nothing like the behemoth he claims to fear. It is a country of immigrants from different lands and different religions, all drawn here by the lure of freedom, prosperity and the rule of law. Yet despite the diversity of race, religion and national origins, we Americans all get along pretty well. There is no Sunni district of America where a Shiite American is unsafe. Our small populations of Kurdish Americans have nothing to fear from the variegated Americans around them. Here the rule of law and the promises of our Constitution keep us living together in relative peace.
Next week this city holds its annual Columbus Day Parade, celebrating the achievements of Italian-Americans, but open to all Americans to enjoy. We have all arrived here as immigrants, but we have all melted into the American melting pot and added our different spices to the American stew. Presidents Chavez and Ahmadinejad should have stuck around to enjoy the parade and have a slice of pizza.