Go Humbly

What right does an American mutt like me have to depict in fiction the lives of a Salvadoran family?

Maybe this question no longer resonates, now that the era of identity politics has waned. As I rolled it around in my head, though, preparing to write this sidebar, the film Osama came to mind, about an Afghan girl who, after the Taliban takeover, masquerades as a boy to find work and help her mother survive. The scenes with the girl are often excruciatingly brutal and tragic. The film ends with her being discovered, sold off to a sadistic old man with a harem of bitter imprisoned wives. But the image that has always haunted me was fleeting in the film: a Western woman, red-haired and blue-eyed like my mother, respectfully veiled but dragged off by bearded zealot thugs, an unmistakable look of controlled terror on her face. Later, in another fleeting glimpse, shot from a distance amid chaos, we see her buried up to her neck, about to be stoned to death.

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