THE BLOG
05/22/2006 11:39 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Response to McCain's Aide Mark Salter

At the risk of turning this into a battle between Mark Salter, Senator John McCain's staff-member, and myself, I'd like to comment briefly on his comment on the Huffington Post. I'm sad to see that Mr. Salter intentionally misinterpreted my writing, presumably to hurt my feelings and frighten me into silence. I'd like to say first of all, that I don't believe that anything I've written to the public so far has been quite as nasty to Senator McCain as Mr. Salter was to me. On the contrary, I think that my writing clearly reflected my values, which is to say, never was I rude to the Senator nor did I show any disrespect. In fact, I think my compassion was made clear. To pick on me in such a bullying and sarcastic way is a clear admission on Mr. Salter's part that his fear is far deeper than any I might have felt when sticking up for myself.

The following is addressed directly to Mr. Salter:

Without taking issue with your statement point by point, I'd just like to draw attention for a moment to a few things you said. Firstly, it was clear to me why Senator McCain chose to give the same speech at every school. It was meant to show consistency in his message, and, contrary to what you suggested, there is no place in my speech or my other writing where I take issue with that. However, interestingly, it is precisely because the senator's speech had nothing to do with our graduation or anyone else's that it worked so marvelously in all settings. It was equally out of place no matter where it was delivered.

In addition, you make many assumptions about who I am and what I stand for. You assume that the words shouted from the audience reflected at all times my opinions and values. You assume that I have made myself look like an idiot, which, I can tell you, is just not true. You assume I have taken no risks. I'm curious to see which doors have been permanently closed to me in the future, simply because I've spoken up. You assume that I did what I did simply to draw attention to myself for my own personal benefit. I have said in my writing, and I will say it again, I would never have asked for this responsibility in a million years. The entire event was stomach-churning and unpleasant because it was something I didn't want to do, but knew I had to out of an obligation to my own values. You assume that I have no experience making a living. I have been a full-time college student and have worked a job to pay my own rent and my own expenses for the past two years. You assume that I live in an "echo chamber" of liberal head-patting, when, in fact, I live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a neighborhood notorious for its cultural diversity and sometimes, conflict. I live in New York City where every human interaction is a test of our willingness to coexist as citizens. And finally, I think it is unfair to assume that I have not considered the hardships of Senator McCain's life. Indeed, one of my first feelings upon seeing him in the flesh was compassion for how much he must have endured in his time as a POW. If there's one thing that I know about myself, it is that I care for people, and in that sense I have a great deal of character. Please don't try to bully me anymore.