Taking Bob Judd’s challenge from the comments to Phil’s Sept. 19 “Exile” blog, I sent the following to my Representative.
“I am writing to alert you to the case of the musicologist Dr. Nalini Ghuman, who (like too many other scholars) is being prevented from reentering the United States by the Department of Homeland Security, WHICH WILL GIVE NO CAUSE FOR THIS ACTION. Her husband is in the United States, her job (Professor at Mills College in Oakland, CA) is in the United States, and she has been prevented from reentering for over a year, with no explanation.
“We, as American citizens, have a right to know why an American-trained scholar with an American job is forbidden to resume her position here. I implore you to investigate the exclusion of foreign scholars by Homeland Security, who is acting in a frighteningly irrational manner. In the words of Bard College President Leon Botstein, “What is at stake is America’s pre-eminence as a place of scholarship.” That our own government should behave this way is unconscionable.
My Representative is Marilyn Musgrave, whose website acknowledged my query immediately with a polite letter that included the assurance: “I am currently reviewing the issues you raised in your correspondence.” We’ll see, I suppose. Some of us may know something of her voting record.
Now, let’s review. My view is that we want two things: 1) information, and 2) Nalini Ghuman and similarly encumbered scholars to be allowed back in the country. Is that not true? Homeland Security may have some information about her nefarious activities that would shock us. If so, IT IS THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO SHARE IT. If not, she should be readmitted to the United States immediately, with an apology. The fact is, it is their business to know things, and—as I said before—she may have a secret life of which we’re unaware, involving Welsh triple-strung harps and crwth playing, or something worse. If she is a hate-monger and destabilizing force for American democracy, we have a right to know. If not, let her the hell back in here, and try not to embarrass thinking American citizens any further with this kind of capricious and needlessly cruel behavior.
Now: the American Musicological Society, of which both Phil and I are dues-paying members, is affiliated with the American Council of Learned Societies. Perhaps Bob will be willing to keep us informed of his contacts with them, joint initiatives on this matter, lobbying efforts in DC and so on. I don’t think it’s fair to imply that when a blog behaves like a blog it’s “a form of complacency,” when it is not clear that our Learned Society itself, which is telling its members to write individual letters, is acting and organizing to the full measure of its Learning.