A couple of years ago, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was having dinner at our house in Holland and we decided to watch a comedy show on TV. I believe the reason was that Wouter Bos, the leader of the Dutch Social Democrats and a colleague of Ayaan’s in parliament, was scheduled to appear on that show.
The program featured stand-up comedians discussing the news, together with the well-known guest. And because Ayaan was an ongoing topic in Holland, they started talking about her. One of the comedians remarked: “Ayaan, she doesn’t have a clitoris, does she?”
The audience laughed. And Wouter Bos, the leader of one of the established political parties and one of the pillars of modern Dutch society, laughed along with the crowd.
Ayaan couldn’t breathe. Shocked, we stared at the screen. Was it possible we hadn’t heard it correctly? How was it possible that a human being, who had been tortured as a child by being forced to undergo genital mutilation, could become an object of laughter and derision by adult men on national television?
I didn’t care for the comedians — sick minds possessing the intuition of obsessed adolescents. I cared for Wouter Bos, an intelligent, sensitive man, who didn’t have the courage to protect ordinary decency and demand that this remark be cut from the taped show.
Three days later one of the main Dutch newspapers published an op-ed piece my wife and I had written about Wouter Bos’ cowardly behavior. Other voices were heard criticizing my wife and me for our effort to “silence” a funny comedian.
Wanda Sykes’ recent performance reminded me of this impressive example of Dutch tolerance. I only know her from her short appearances on the great Larry David show Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO, and I have to admit that she always frightened me a bit with her furious and deadly political correctness. Last Saturday, at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, she wished an American citizen to die because this citizen disagrees with the politics of the American president.
Wanda Sykes isn’t of any interest to me. The fact that the American president was five feet away from her and had to laugh about her joke was of interest. A comedian wishes a citizen dead and the president laughs?