Wednesday, September 22, 2004


The Federal government has got things under control. As my friend Sheila pointed out, they're sending that corrupt corporate diva Martha Stewart to jail in a couple of weeks, and they've just captured and deported that dangerous terrorist who was once fondly known as Cat Stevens as he attempted to enter the country today.

Dudes! This is the guy who wrote Peace Train! And although he converted to Islam and now goes by the name Yusef Islam it doesn't mean that he's automatically sending money to the terrorist training camps like they're UNICEF. The guy has made some questionable choices, sure. Like picking Islam as his last name. What's up with that? It's like Madonna taking the Kaballah thing to the next level and asking everyone to call her Esther Jewish. I mean it seems that with all the musical names available in the lexicon he could've picked something more, well cool - Cat Stevens was a pretty cool moniker for a guy who was born Stephen Dimitri Georgiou. I would've expected something less obvious, but whatever.

The dumbest thing he ever did and this may be why he found his butt pulled off the plane in Maine, was his response to the Salman Rushdie debacle back in 1989. Islamic leaders called for a fatwa against Rushdie after his fictional work The Satanic Verses was published because they decided that it was blasphemous. When asked if he supported the fatwa Yusef Islam (who used to be "I'm Being Followed by a Moonshadow" Cat Stevens) quoted Qu'aranic law as it relates to blasphemy and that got reported in the media as pretty much if Salman and Yusef were to cross paths Yusef would smite the blasphemer.

Extremism begets exteme actions. I had my own experience with extremism around the issue of Salman Rushdie and his book. I was taking a short story class with Mr. Bundy, a stocky little man who taught a pretty mediocre class that fulfilled one of the last general english requirements that I needed to graduate. I was back to finish school so I was about 10 years older than the majority of freshman in the class. We were discussing a short story written by Ernest Hemingway called "Hills Like White Elephants" which was basically about a couple in the early 20th century who'd resolved a pregnancy with abortion. Mr. Bundy stood in front of the class pontificating about how this story was "eclectic" and that it brought Mr. Hemingway quite a bit of criticism, much like the eclectic work by Salman Rushdie was bringing him criticism, and indeed all work that is considered eclectic for it's time usually came up against much criticism.

Being a stickler for the proper usage of vocabulary words, and a smartass smartypants, I couldn't help but add my two cents so I raised my hand and said, "Well first of all eclectic means to cull from multiple and varied sources so provacative would probably be a more accurate term and in my opinion to compare the moral outrage that Hemingway got for being provacative to the insane death threats that Rushdie is getting for being provacative is to disregard the religious fanaticism that fuels a fatwa."

Mr. Bundy turned bright red and screamed at me, "How dare you! You owe everyone in here an apology!! You have no right to say something like that!!!" The whole class went deadly silent and I stared at him flabberghasted. "Are you saying I have no right to express an opinion?" "Not when that opinion is insulting to other people. So I went, saying as I stacked my books and prepared to go, "If anyone in here has a problem with what I said please feel free to discuss it with me. And Mr. Bundy I will not apologize for expressing an opinion about what I feel about an extremist group calling for the death of an author who wrote a work of fiction. If this were a political science class I would express the same opinion about the barbarism of Christian groups who kill doctors and bomb abortion clinics in the name of God."

And I walked straight to the dean of the department where I filed a complaint against Mr. Bundy for his behavior. I couldn't believe that I had just walked out of a class I needed in order to graduate 2 months before the end of the term. And to this day I think he was less mad about what I said and more pissed off that I corrected him when he was giving everyone a brand new word of the day. But in any case he called me and we talked about it and he asked me to come back to class and I said okay but he had to apologize for giving those 18 year olds the impression that it wasn't okay freely express ideas and opinions in a classroom in the United States of America.

But the way things are going lately I wonder if we really can freely express ideas and opinions anywhere, much less in a classroom, without ending up on a "no fly" list. Or being rounded up and thrown in jail for standing too close to people who are protesting what this government is doing. Or, you could be identified as an "enemy combatant" and end up incarcerated by this government for years without ever being charged like this guy, until the Supreme Court does what it's supposed to do and let's you offer a defense at which point the government decides you're not that bad and let's you go. Even though you were reportedly captured fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. What the?

Oooh baby it's a wild world and it's getting more and more extreme all the time.

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