Rushdie’s Right to Write Is Worth My Dying For

The recent knifing of Salman Rushdie, more than 30 years after the issuance of a fatwa to kill him for blasphemy, has a visceral connection to almost every aspect of American freedom. It is a coalescing of everything worth fighting for. 

I don’t like Salman Rushdie. I have read some of his work, which I find pointlessly obscure and lacking in any of the driving forces of Western literature. I don’t like his personality, what I have encountered in interviews, on YouTube, and in his own articles. But his right to write is worth my dying for. 

The point here should not be lost in the news. This is the news. This is not a convenient struggle between two political forces. It is, in fact, authoritarianism against individual freedom, but we are at war with more than one ideology. Physically speaking, like World War II, it is a war from two sides. Intellectually it is often a war from within. 

Religion goes to the root of our being. Those who promote a past age of medieval glory when man was closer to God have got their heads screwed on backward. There has been no time since the Scottish kirks promoted the importance of reading for every person who wanted to speak directly to God that humans have encountered a time of greater accessibility for our beliefs, whatever those may be. 

This freedom of thought is what makes everything else possible. It is what we Americans inherited in our spiritual DNA from highland crofters who would not be displaced by sheep as much as it was from David Hume or John Locke. The modern socialist ideology of mass movements is no more compatible with the medieval subjugation of the individual to a “will of God” as defined by Church fathers than to the fatwa of a medieval Iranian mullah, though both are authoritarian.   

We are at war now, and we have been for more than a generation. If you tire, read a little of your founding fathers. Read some Robert Frost. Read some Mark Twain and a little Henry David Thoreau. Read The Virginian. It’s okay to be weary. Sustain yourself. Renew yourself. And press on. Surrender is not an option. 

About Vincent McCaffrey

Vincent McCaffrey is a novelist and bookseller. Visit his website at www.vincentmccaffrey.com.

Photo: Johnny Louis/Getty Images

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