AN AMERICAN IN PAKISTAN: Value of dissent
The folksongs of the 1960s will never be written again because of President George Bush. He has hampered the liberties of my country in the name of September 11. Songs now can only talk of patriotism they cannot mention peace
My friend in England sent me three CDs. One she had designed herself, including the album cover inside the case. She is a brilliant and thoughtful woman. One of the CDs that she sent was Cat Stevens, and I listened to it over and over. The first time I listened to the album without having looked at the list of songs, I knew what the last song on the album would be. Peace Train. The last song in every collection by Cat Stevens is always Peace Train.
I am an American child of the 1960s. We defied the standards of our parents and declared that a war was unjust. And we were heard. We changed the way humans think. We dared to say that the human race does not have to fight wars. Ever. All conflicts can be settled by peaceful means.
The folksongs of the 1960s are still sung, by my children and their children, but they will never be written again. No one will ever again wail as Cat Stevens did, to compel his country to ride on the peace train.
There is no logical reason for our bravery of thought in the 1960s. We faced the threat of nuclear war from the Soviet Union, which was real enough at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. There were problems of desegregation as well as the disaster of the Vietnam War. We had to come to terms with the assassination of a beloved president. The world was as complicated as ever, but we never doubted the ideologies of Freedom and Democracy.
The democracy of the United States is such a radical idea because it has a sense of humour as far as human beings are concerned. It says that if people are given the freedom to do what they want they will make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, change their minds, try something else. If people are given freedom they will, over time, choose to do the right thing because it gives them peace of mind.
When people ask me about my favourite US president, I name Abraham Lincoln. I think they are surprised by this ó there have been a lot of presidents since Lincoln who have done important things. The reason why he is my favourite is because he delayed as long as possible the decision to enter into a just war.
The Civil War was the worst conflict in US history. Part of the country was determined to secede. The reasons for secession included economics, religion, culture, but the main reason was the existence of the institution of slavery in the South. It was the only war ever fought over a moral principle that had nothing to do with religion.
Abraham Lincoln had the moral obligation to end the slavery of human beings. He knew this. And yet he suffered greatly because he was also aware of the terrible consequences of war. He agonised over this until the South announced its secession. Then he went to war in self-defence.
Even when there is a choice between two evils, time is on the side of just action.
I hope that when I wear out this Cat Stevens album it wonít be too difficult to get another one. The folksongs of the 1960s will never be written again because of President George Bush. He has hampered the liberties of my country in the name of September 11. Songs now can only talk of patriotism, they cannot mention peace.
Americans are supposed to believe that they have to do what they want. Now. They have to go with the impulse of the moment. Morality is determined by a state of mind, not the other way around. Dissent has no value, and neither does time.
Cathy Mayo is an American journalist based in Pakistan