Crackdown on Student Who Defends America

Naturalized American citizens are often times more conspicuously patriotic than American-born citizens who are more likely to take their birthrights for granted. After all, a naturalized citizen makes a deliberate choice to declare allegiance to the United States. Those born here may or may not consciously assume a sincere allegiance or love of country. Perhaps, this tendency partially explains the actions of Zewdalem Kebede, on September 22, 2001.

Kebede is a senior majoring in political science at San Diego State University. He was born in Ethiopia and is a naturalized citizen. On the eventful Saturday, Kebede was studying in the Reserve Book Room of the Love Library. Within earshot, four Saudi Arabian students were conversing in Arabic keeping their conversation private from passersby. Kebede, however, speaks fluent Arabic.

According to Kebede, the students were rejoicing in the September 11 terrorist attacks and were only displeased that the White House was not also hit. Unable to contain his displeasure, he spoke to the Saudi students in Arabic and told them they should be ashamed of their attitude. Thousands of citizens of the country that was being so hospitable to them had been killed.

The details of the verbal exchange between the Kebede and the Saudi students remain unclear. Witnesses could not speak Arabic. No one reports any physical exchange or intimidation, though one of the Saudi students called the campus police. By the time, the police arrived what ever happened had been over for 30 minutes. Kebede and the students had gone their separate ways. Nonetheless, the Saudi students claimed harassment. Apparently, the university police cautioned both parties. Without any formal finding of wrongdoing, Kebede was warned by the president of the university about “abusive” conduct and was “admonished to conduct [himself] as a responsible member of the campus community in the future.”

In response to the incident, Kebede stated for the student paper:

“I’m naturalized American. I have taken an oath to protect this country, so that is my part to do — for that I am happy. I am an honest citizen for this country. I showed those guys that there are people who love America, who defend America. That’s what I showed. Is that a crime?”

Actually, the incident is illustrative of the Leftist assault on free expression on campus. Any serious campus ought to be an intellectual free-fire zone, under the presumption that in such a crucible truth emerges. People who are too emotionally or intellectually insecure to see or hear ideas that challenge their comfortable notions are not yet ready for college. If the ideas the Saudi students expressed could not bear scrutiny, then perhaps those ideas were deficient.

The Left on campus wants to suppress speech that makes minorities uncomfortable. As Peter Beinart of The New Republic explained that too often on campuses, “…[Sp]eech that offends minority students constitutes an implicit threat to their safety and therefore merits suppression. Threats to national security or rhetoric that offends those who suffered on September 11 do not.”

If you are really uncertain as to the nature of San Diego State’s official reaction, consider what would have happened in a similar incident if the people involved had been different. Assume that the four students who were talking privately were white students discussing their satisfaction that a black American had been dragged to his death in Texas and that their only regret is that more black Americans had not met a similar fate. Further assume that a black student overheard the ugly conversation and had the courage to confront the white students to tell them that they should be ashamed of themselves. Do you really believe that San Diego State University would have written a letter of admonition to that black student, and allowed the white students to walk away with no consequences and their identities unrevealed.

The courageous black student would have lauded for his actions and so should Kebede.

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