Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

A Casualty of War

“Oh I can't keep it in, I can't keep it in,
I've gotta let it out.
I've got to show the world,
worlds got to see,
see all the love love that's in me.
I said, why walk alone,
why worry when it's warm over here.
You've got so much to say, say what you mean,
mean what you're thinking, and think anything.
Oh why, why must you waste you're life away,
you've got to live for today, then let it go.”

All over the world tonight terrorists are singing these words. It’s a war chant of sorts, a cleansing before the final suicide attack takes us all out. They are tricky lyrics; you have to be trained to see between the lines, beneath the veil, behind the beard and under the turban.

Thank God we got him, though. Unlike the killer pilots who dive bombed the World Trade Center, we don’t have to worry about the man formerly known as Cat Stevens and his guitar of death. This is how the war on terror looks. This is the benefit of diligence. That son of a bitch. Just listen to this.

“I was once like you are now,
and I know that it's not easy,
To be calm when you've found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you've got.
For you will still be here tomorrow,
but your dreams may not.”

If you blinked, you missed it. It’s subtle, under the rug. What looks on the surface to be an emotional bid between father and son, each yearning and fighting for a thing they know to be true is, at it’s blackest and darkest, a plea for recruits. You don’t see it? “You will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.” The “here” is Islamic heaven, virgins on all sides, a tribute to the ultimate sacrifice. Their “dreams” are gone because, well, they’ve accomplished their goal. They’ve achieved immortality.

“Oh Very Young what will you leave us this time
There'll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven.”

When I was a kid my father used to play Cat Stevens ad nauseum throughout our house. On repeat. Cat Stevens, John Denver, Elton John; I’m beginning to understand how I turned out this way. But Cat was the constant, and I hated every moment of it. It wasn’t until years later, after I’d gone to college in New Orleans (I attended Tulane university for one, brief, hot minute my freshman year), and one morning that lyric came on the radio. “Oh Very Young what will you leave us this time?” It rang around the room and before I knew it I was out the door, class be damned and headed for Mushroom Records. That was when I understood why my father listened to this music. It was so simple, so peaceful, so honest. And though I don’t like all of his catalogue, far from it actually, I cannot listen to him without thinking of my dad, and it has nothing to do with “Father and Son.”

“Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
'Cause there's a million things to be
You know that there are.”

I have this interesting theory, that we are who we are. It’s doesn’t form over a lifetime, it doesn’t add on layer, there is nothing claymation about us. We are born, and we are who we are. From there it is up to us to either fuck that up beyond all recognition (fubar), or manage to hold on to whatever that thing is that makes us identifiable. I’m not saying we don’t change; we alter, we transform, we mutate. But there’s a center, a heart, and we are who we are. Things can happen that accentuate or take away, but an asshole is an asshole from birth; a good kid is a good kid.

Here is what I know about Cat Stevens, or Yusuf Islam as he is known now: Nothing. I don’t know the man. I’ve never met him. But the lyrics are there, the thoughts and emotions he put down for us like clues in beats and strums. Those we can use to surmise, and because of these songs, and only because of these songs, I can say with displaced surety that he must be a good man. One of his songs was titled “I’ve Got a Thing About Seeing My Grandson Grow Old,” for Christ sake.

I’m not much for conspiracy theories. People who buy into these always seem a little off, crazy, psycho, loopy. But you have to at very least ask the question, was Cat Stevens denied entry because he is Islam?

“Morning has broken like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, Praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing fresh from the world.”

Here is what I know about Islam, and this is only based on 4 years of religious study in college: Islam is one of the most beautiful religions of the world, finding common footing with Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. It’s a peaceful religion, one whose practitioners display a profound faith.

But, and this is one of the uglier facts around, it also happens to be the claimed belief of a majority of terrorists, which has nothing to do with the faith, in and of itself, aside from convenience. Terrorism has as much to do with the practice of Islam as the Klu Klux Klan and homophobia have to do with Christianity. Which is to say that a plurality of idiots can be found within any system of belief. The retardation of faith has nothing to do with the central message of that faith (which generally has something to do with love), and this is coming from someone naturally suspicious of organized religion.

Because here’s the thing; this is Cat Stevens. How do we suspect Cat Fucking Stevens of anything other than an overabundance of optimism, peace, love and flower child hippy shit? What do we think he was capable of? Strumming our buildings to the ground?

Let’s pretend for a second that I’m wrong. Cat Stevens, purveyor of peace, troubadour of hope, has become a gun toting, bomb strapping fanatic. He’s a terrorist, an implant, embedded on a plane to try and come back home for one fatal, awful, horrible last dance. Because it’s one of two things, really. Cat Stevens, murderer, terrorist. Or American government, ugly, biased, knee jerk, stupid decision.

“You know I've seen a lot of what the world can do,
and it's breaking my heart in two,
cause I never want to see you sad girl,
don't be a bad girl,
but if you want to leave take good care,
hope you make a lot of nice friends out there,
but just remember there's a lot of bad and beware, beware,

Oh baby baby it's a wild world,
it's hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh baby baby it's a wild world,
and I'll always remember you like a child, girl.”

Beyond what I’ve read in the newspapers, I don’t know any more facts in this case. Still, it doesn’t compute that this man would be capable of anything besides hoping we all have it within ourselves to do something right.

We are who we are. As individuals, people of faith (or no faith), and as a country.