Salman Rushdie attacked at Chautauqua

doomsday prophesying

Chautauqua.Jackson_Campbell_LectureAs utterly horrific as the savage attack on author Salman Rushdie was, it was also shocking WHERE it occurred.

The Chautauqua Institution, 17 miles northwest of Jamestown in southwest New York State, has been, since 1874, “a community of artists, educators, thinkers, faith leaders and friends dedicated to exploring the best in humanity. Whether it’s your first time visiting or your fiftieth, our promise is the same: Wisdom will be gleaned. Memories will be made. Life will be enriched. Positive change is your charge.”

For instance, week 7, August 6-13, was Interfaith Lecture Theme: Home: A Place for Human Thriving. “‘Home is where the heart is’ is a sentiment that has been repeated for over a hundred years, known to mean where our loved ones are. In reality, it is also the place wherein ‘family’ in many forms and contexts is created, wherein each member can thrive if the nurturing elements of shelter, security, caring, nutrition, and felt love are present. In this week, we will look at the essentiality of ‘home’ from multiple perspectives and insights and perhaps to see more clearly into our own lives and histories.”

I know many people IRL who have attended CI multiple times and were refreshed by the experience. It was a place my wife and I thought to travel this summer, except that plans for sending the daughter to college were more complicated than anticipated.

Kelly, who’s been to Chautauqua Institute,  wrote of the assailant about “a learned hatred in service of a small god.” Quite accurate. “I have never been able to wrap my head around the idea of God–a being so vast and powerful as to be able to create the entire Universe–nevertheless being apparently so thin-skinned as to be offendable by anything some being says, thinks, writes, or does down here on Earth.”

Hate does not take a vacation

This. Warner Bros. Discovery Condemns Threats Against J.K. Rowling Made in Wake of Salman Rushdie Attack. “The Harry Potter author received a death threat on Twitter after showing her support for Rushdie.”

Add to this all the threats of political violence, particularly in the United States. WAY back in October 2021,  Rachel Kleinfeld documented the phenomenon.

“From death threats against previously anonymous bureaucrats and public-health officials to a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor and the 6 January 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, acts of political violence in the United States have skyrocketed in the last five years.  The nature of political violence has also changed. The media’s focus on groups such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Boogaloo Bois has obscured a deeper trend: the ‘ungrouping’ of political violence as people self-radicalize via online engagement.”

Worse, “ideas that were once confined to fringe groups now appear in the mainstream media. White supremacist ideas, militia fashion, and conspiracy theories spread via gaming websites, YouTube channels, and blogs, while a slippery language of memes, slang, and jokes blurs the line between posturing and provoking violence, normalizing radical ideologies and activities.”

Political violence

In the past week, I’ve read or watched The Hill: “Pro-Trump backlash to FBI search fuels concern over political violence.” PBS News Hour: “Assessing threats of political violence and rising extremism on the far-right.”

And The Atlantic: What Comes After the Search Warrant? Why August 8 may become a new hinge point in U.S. history. “This country is tracking toward a scale of political violence not seen since the Civil War. It’s evident to anyone who spends significant time dwelling in the physical or virtual spaces of the American right. Go to a gun show. Visit a right-wing church. Check out a Trump rally. No matter the venue, the doomsday prophesying is ubiquitous—and scary.

“Whenever and wherever I’ve heard hypothetical scenarios of imminent conflict articulated, the premise rests on an egregious abuse of power… I’ve always walked away from these experiences thinking to myself: If America is a powder keg, then one overreach by the government, real or perceived, could light the fuse.


Rafia Zakaria wrote an opinion piece on CNN: Salman Rushdie has risked his life for decades; US must stand up against censorship, too. “The horrendous attack on Rushdie, an author who has been a champion for free speech and intellectual freedom by putting his life on the line, should be a lesson to the people of his chosen country. Stifling freedom of expression isn’t justified — whether it’s the extreme action of an ayatollah condemning an author to death for his work or book bans by zealots who believe that America can only be made ‘great’ again by furthering the cause of white supremacy.”

I must admit that I’m very nervous. The only good news is that maybe global warming will do us in first. (Too cynical?)

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