Perhaps you, like me, remember the publication of Salman Rushdie's provocative novel, The Satanic Verses, just 30 years ago.
I recall being the emcee of a book and author dinner at the time and suggesting to the audience that all of us had a duty to stand for freedom of expression by buying a copy of the book. Which I did. And I read it, too.As you may recall, many Muslims around the world felt that Rushdie was attacking their religion.
In fact, eventually Iran's autocratic leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie's death. It forced him into hiding.
Well, Rushdie survives. But what has changed in the last three decades because of the Rushdie Affair, as it came to be called?
The British newspaper The Guardian offers this answer via Observer columnist Kenan Malik. He writes this:
"Rushdie’s critics lost the battle, but won the war. The Satanic Verses continues to be published. Yet the argument that it is morally wrong to offend other peoples and cultures has become widely accepted in the three decades since. The fatwa has, in effect, become internalised.
"The Rushdie affair was an early expression of what we now call 'identity politics'. Back in the 1980s, there was no such thing as the 'Muslim community'. Britons of a Muslim background growing up in the 1970s and 80s called themselves Asian or black, rarely Muslim. The Rushdie affair gave notice of a shift in self-perception and of the beginnings of a distinctive Muslim identity."
No doubt Malik has a point. But I think there may be something else at play here.
I think various so-called identity groups have found their voices and are standing up against discrimination and hatred. It's happening to Muslims, to be sure, especially when they live in predominantly non-Muslim countries. And it's happening in the U.S. to racial minorities, to women, to gays and lesbians and others among LGBTQ folks. It's even happening to blue-collar Americans, especially rural people who have felt marginalized enough to vote for Donald Trump for president because they believed he understood how ignored and disrespected they felt.
All of this may be dismissed as over-the-top political correctness. And no doubt some of it is, especially the hypersensitivity and lack of humor sometimes found now on college campuses.
But for the most part the waves of reaction to the Rushdie book have unleashed a self-awareness among various oppressed groups of people who have announced that they're not going to put up with oppression and disrespect anymore.
That process is a little rough around the edges and can result in this or that group zigging when it should have zagged. But on the whole, finding one's voice is to be encouraged. And developments such as the Kavanaugh hearings and investigations are moving others to speak clearly about themselves and their interests.
* * *
AN INTRIGUING #FakeNews STORY
Here's something a lot of people, including me, never imagined was true: A new book says the Overseas News Agency, founded by the Jewish Telegraph Agency in 1940, partnered "with Britain’s foreign intelligence agency to spread fake news aimed at discrediting Hitler and enlisting the United States’ help with the war in Europe," this RNS story reports. Was it ethical to produce fake news stories to take down the man who, among a few others, personified evil in the 20th Century? Hmmm. Let's think about that.
* * *
P.S.: I hope all Kansas Citians can set aside any partisan political feelings we have at the moment and wish Jason Kander well as he drops out of the race for mayor to seek treatment for depression and PTSD. He needs our prayers and good wishes and help from any friends from whom he seeks it. And we need to be grateful to him for being honest about his condition and to recognize that he is one more casualty of this seemingly endless war.