The Freeman's Burden:

To defend the principles of human liberty; to educate; to be vigilant against the ever expanding power of the state.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Thought for the Day

Posted by Hello

The other day I went to see the play "Billy Elliot" in London. During intermission, a man approached me and asked, "Are you Mr. Friedman?" When I said yes, he introduced himself -- Emad Tinawi, a Syrian-American working for Booz Allen. He told me that while he disagreed with some things I wrote, there was one column he still keeps. "It was the one called, 'Where Birds Don't Fly,' " he said.

I remembered writing that headline, but I couldn't remember the column. Then he reminded me: It was about the new post-9/11 U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, which looks exactly like a maximum-security prison, so much so that a captured Turkish terrorist said that while his pals considered bombing it, they concluded that the place was so secure that even birds couldn't fly there. Tinawi and I then swapped impressions about the corrosive impact such security restrictions were having on foreigners' perceptions of America.

In New Delhi, the Indian writer Gurcharan Das remarked to me that with each visit to the United States lately, he has been forced by border officials to explain why he is coming to America. They "make you feel so unwanted now," said Das. America was a country "that was always reinventing itself," he added, because it was a country that always welcomed "all kinds of oddballs" and had "this wonderful spirit of openness." American openness has always been an inspiration for the whole world, he concluded. "If you go dark, the world goes dark."

This would be a tragedy for us and for the world. Because, as I've argued, where birds don't fly, people don't mix, ideas don't get sparked, friendships don't get forged, stereotypes don't get broken, and freedom doesn't ring. - Tom Friedman


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