Life Is Beautiful In Afghanistan

“I enjoy being in America. It’s fun, you know? Because you had, you have so many things we never had in Russia. Like warning shots.” - Ukrainian comedian Yakov Smirnoff on The Johnny Carson Show, 1988.

Comedy is easy. Risking your life over it is hard. If there is anything murderous psychotic fascists will not brook, above all else, it is being ridiculed. No sense of humor whatsoever.

Historical precedents abound. In 1940, Adolf Hitler sentenced Charlie Chaplin and the Three Stooges to death in absentia for The Great Dictator and You Nazty Spy, respectively. All four comedians exhibited extraordinary courage in spurning Hitler’s lethal decree by continuing to make fun of him in film and public appearances for the duration of the war unto Hitler’s demise.

It is unlikely that Russian authorities ever shot Soviet-era comedian Yakov Smirnoff, though I have no doubt the Soviet government was more than happy to hand him a visa to get him out of the country. Afghani comedian Zahar Mohammed, aka Khasha Zwan, who became nationally famous for ridiculing the Taliban in hilarious fashion, was not so lucky. Khasha received no warning shots when he was dragged from his home by Taliban psychos in Kandahar in late July. He was later found murdered, shot to death, and his throat slit.

Nothing surprising about Taliban savagery and barbarism. What was amazing about this grisly episode is that Khasha was filmed joking about the Taliban to their faces all the way to his execution. How can you even measure that kind of courage?

I was instantly reminded of Italian actor/comedian Roberto Benigni’s tragicomic Life Is Beautiful, the story of a Jewish-Italian man and his son imprisoned in a German concentration camp. Benigni’s character, Guido Orefice, shields his son Giosué from the horrors of the camp by explaining it as a complicated game in which Giosué must perform all the tasks assigned to him as part of the game.

The film was an international smash hit, garnering over $250M and sweeping international film awards, winning three 1997 Academy Awards and the Cannes Palm d’Or. I myself only remember two things about that film. The first was Mr. Benigni jumping across the tops of chairs like a crazy man at the Oscars when he was selected for Best Actor. The second was the painfully tragic ending of the film. To protect his son, Guido begins a comedy shtick to distract the Nazi camp guard from his son. Guido is then dragged out of sight down a dark alley by the Nazi. We hear a gunshot, then only the Nazi emerges from the dark holstering his Luger.

The most jarring part of that scene for me, as I am sure it was for millions of others who saw the film, was seeing Benigni’s Guido joking and shticking with his executioner all the way to his death. Just like Khasha Zwan. The big difference is of course that Roberto Benigni is still breathing, as Life is Beautiful was just a movie. The Afghan version starring Khasha Zwan was all too sickeningly real. Of all the far too numerous and gruesome horrors emerging from Afghanistan since the Biden Administration handed the country over to the Taliban on a silver platter, this one hit me the hardest of all.

Perhaps it’s because I dedicated twelve years of my life to writing comedy screenplays. Or maybe it just offends every sensibility I have seeing a comedian brutally slaughtered for the capital crime of making jokes.

It also makes me wonder just how many so-called brave comedians like Steven Colbert and Kathy Griffin et al really are. If President Trump really had been the psychotic fascist murderer they accused him of being during his presidency and federal Nazi jackboots were dragging them off to their deaths, do you think they’d still be making Trump jokes the whole way? Or would they be wetting their panties and begging for mercy?

It’s a rhetorical question. We all know the answer. They’d be crying like babies and soiling their diapers like the little girls they are.

Someone, somewhere in the West needs to memorialize this incredibly brave man. Maybe Andrew Cuomo’s Special Emmy could be awarded to Khasha in memoriam, as I hear Cuomo’s Emmy is as far apart from him now as his dog Captain. In Afghanistan itself, the senseless brutal murder of Khasha Zwan has stoked what many European press outlets are calling “fear of reprisals” (against the Taliban, in case you’re wondering).

Khasha was very well-liked throughout the country, and revenge killings may happen. I see two big dangers for Afghans if they do. Like the Nazis before them, I have no doubt that Taliban foot soldiers will round up and slaughter innocent civilians in far greater numbers as reprisals for the killings of their own.

Second, what chance of resistance do the Afghan people have now that Joe Biden has left the Taliban as a better-equipped militarily than 166 other nations on earth? It should be noted and documented for all time that the Taliban are not the only ones responsible for Khasha Zwan’s brutal murder.

And to think the Taliban bloodletting is only beginning. It also does not escape me that the first news I received of this insane murder was on Twitter. What will it take for Jack Dorsey to de-platform these maniacs? Do they need to hanging a flag from their headquarters saying “TRUMP WON”?

Image: Khasha Zwan.

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