Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Yusuf Islam's on my shit list?

“It is the most ambitious and driven among us who are the most sorely in need of having our reckless hopes dampened through immersive dousings in the darkness which religions have explored. This is a particular priority for secular Americans, perhaps the most anxious and disappointed people on earth, for their nation infuses them with the most extreme hopes about what they may be able to achieve in their working lives and relationships.” 

― Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion



Crap. I forgot about the boycott. I forgot I'm supposed to be mad at Yusuf Islam for jumping off his peace train. Deserter. Traitor. Hopping onto my shit list. Back when I was in my early adulthood, when I was nice and crazy, trying to find my way in the world, this asshole Yusuf Islam who had once been someone whose voice soothed me through the radio of my youth, made comments suggesting he agreed with the fatwa against author Salman Rushdie. When the singer I thought of as Cat Stevens jumped into the hot mess of a war between the Ayatollah Khomeini and author Salman Rushdie, I decided to bail. I mean, I like Cat Stevens' songs, but not as much as I dislike any beliefs that promote killing.  My brilliant friend Rachel reminded me this morning:

Yusuf Islam's comments in support of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie put him on the side of the violent Islamists, not any kind of Peace Train rider I want to ride with.

Oh yeah. I forgot.

It's hard to remember all the people who've pissed me off over the years. It's an embarrassingly large group. I'm pretty judgy about judgmental people. I like to think I'm righteously indignant, like Jesus, but if I'm honest with myself even I can see I'm simply hysterical. And not the good kind of hysterical. Not funny. Well, yeah, funny, but in a neurotic way. Like Woody Allen.

Oh, speaking of people who've pissed me off. This amazing filmmaker has the audacity to make one of my all-time favorite movies, "Annie Hall," and then he goes and gets accused of sexually abusing his daughter, who, to this day, insists she's telling the truth. How can I in good conscience, as a sexual abuse survivor, not side with Allen's daughter? For a long time after she first publicly accused him, I still went to see his movies. He's an artistic genius. Too bad he's a jerk, too. I can't do it anymore. I've boycotted his last several works.

That's the thing. We're so disappointing, humans. Our imperfection. Our proclivity toward fucking up. Oh, Dear God, we drive me crazy. That's why I love Jesus. It's easy to follow the advice of someone who never fucks up. "Love God. Love yourself. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you!" Well, thanks, Jesus. It's easier said than done. You're the only one in the history of humanity who has not, in some way, disappointed me. You and maybe Fred Rodgers. It's easy to adore someone who has never disappointed you.

If I stop and think about it, I have a long list of people whose lives fill me with both adoration and disappointment. Some more than others. I'm number one on the list. Let me rattle off a few more off the top of my head, including a list of grievances.

Woody Allen (accused by his daughter of sexual abuse)
Bill Maher (Islamaphobic, intolerant of religious expression, misogynist)
President Obama (drone attacks that kill innocent people across the globe)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (lead the Civil Rights Movement while cheating on his wife)
My dad (narcissist)
My brother Pat (secrets, sexual abuse)
John Lennon (wife beater)
Anne Lamott (fat phobic)

Sorry, Anne Lamott. I had to throw a woman on the list. I had trouble thinking of women I admire who have disappointed me enough to go on my list. I mean, I could list all my ex-girlfriends, but my name would be on their list too, so why not call a truce? Am I not fazed as much by my disappointment in women because, as a woman myself, I understand them more?

Or maybe it's because I can't get past myself. I'm the quintessential disappointment. No other woman in the world could possibly disappoint more than I can! Game over.

I know one time I fucked up, a long time ago, but I still feel bad about it. My friend Rachel, the very one who reminded me that I was disappointed in Yusuf Islam, was getting married. I didn't like the guy she picked to marry. I thought he was smart, but show-offy. And not terribly kind. I mean, don't get me wrong. I like smart people. But if I had to pick between hanging out with a jerk with a high IQ or hanging out with a sweetie with a low IQ, I'd pick the sweetie. Every once in a while I'll meet someone who is both brilliant and kind, my friend Rachel, for example. That's what I've always admired about her the most. Brilliant and kind is such a rare combination of personality traits.

But I never said anything to Rachel about my disappointment in her choice of a spouse. Instead, I passively aggressively ditched Rachel at the gown fittings and only later, when she called to see where I was, admitted that I didn't want to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. And then I chickened out about my reason why:

No, it's not that I don't want to be in YOUR wedding. I don't want to be in anyone's wedding. I just don't like the idea of marriage, not yours specifically...

Rachel knows all this now. I finally grew up. Fessed up. I said I was sorry. We're good.

I think I'll take the advice of my brilliant and kind friend, Rachel. After reminding me of our long-ago falling out with Yusuf Islam, she said this:


I stopped boycotting Cat Stevens's music a few years ago -- dammit, I just love his music so much! I still boycott Yusuf Islam's music, and yes, I realize that the defunct Cat Stevens's royalties go to the new man, Yusuf Islam. But . . . I decided I couldn't go the rest of my life without listening to this, one of the most perfect songs ever, I think. 



Perhaps it's time I lifted my boycott on Cat Stevens' music, since I'd forgotten about it anyway. I've found it's easy to forgive and forget if you're forgetful.

It's too bad that Yusuf Islam, someone I think of as a peaceful brother, could favor following violent rules over peaceful intuition. Oh, but I could say that about so many people. Everyone I admire except maybe John Lennon, the wife-beater peace hero, would be on that list.