These Truths, Self-Evident

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These Truths, Self-Evident Yesterday… Election Day… Like many virtuous and civic-minded citizens I cast my ballot—our quirky little tradition, overthrowing the government every two years—yet despite my best efforts the Republican Party swept the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. I want to use a rude word right now. I don’t understand Republicans, and I don’t understand their policies; this isn’t to say that I don’t understand their aims and objectives—I do. However, I cannot stomach what they stand for. I cannot stomach those who would deny women control over their bodies, deny homosexuals the right to legally recognized love. I cannot fathom those who would cut taxes on the superrich, creating Jazz Age class divisions that separate citizens with insurmountable walls of money. But despite my disgust for most things conservatives stand for, I cannot bring myself to dismiss them. President Bush currently holds a 63 percent approval rating from the American public, and I do not choose to believe 63 percent of the citizens of my country are stupid. And despite the way I complain, I really sit down here to rant. My problem stems from the fact that everything these religious zealots hold sacred radically conflicts with every belief I hold sacred and dear. Salman Rushdie knows a little something of religious zealotry. After the publication of his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, the Indian novelist got a bit more than the usual outcry from the extreme religious right. Objecting to the negative portrayal of the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, and the Koran, Islam’s holy book, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran called on all righteous Muslims to execute the writer as well as the publisher of the book. For more than ten years, Rushdie hid from publicity and assassination, all on account of his slander of so-called “sacred” texts. It is reasonable to surmise that Rushdie has a pretty strong opinion of that which is declared sacrosanct. In 1990, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London invited the Booker Prize-winning novelist to deliver the prestigious Herbert Reed Memorial Lecture; those protecting him decided that he should not go in person. Perhaps not being “able to re-enter [his] old life, not even for such a moment” (Rushdie 340), fueled Rushdie’s rhetoric; for whatever the cause, the occasion birthed a lecture of rage: “Is Nothing Sacred?” In this discourse, Rushdie discusses his views on the vitality and importance of literature, and whether it is, supposedly like religion, inherently sacred.
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