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Sun Aug 25 09:33:20 MDT 2002
NY Times Magazine, Aug. 25, 2002
QUESTIONS FOR STEVE EARLE
Sympathy for a Rebel
By JASON ZENGERLE
Your song ''John Walker's Blues,'' which likens John Walker Lindh to
Jesus, has been denounced in some quarters as unpatriotic. What made you
want to write it?
The main thing is, I got a 20-year-old son, and he's doing great now,
but he's been kind of a hard dog to keep under the porch at times, kind
of like I was at 20. Also, I get naturally suspicious when politicians
start agreeing with each other as much as they were following Sept. 11.
It just occurred to me that we were going to get this kid because we
couldn't come up with a body that we could say was Osama bin Laden.
Lindh himself admitted that he served with the Taliban. Why make your
ballad so sympathetic to him?
No one's ever proven this kid shot at anybody. There were plenty of
people vilifying John Walker, but I felt like no one was trying to even
consider for one second how he got to where he got.
Lindh, who became a Muslim at 16, eventually went to school in Pakistan
to explore Islam. How did you learn more about it?
Islam.com. I swear to God. I didn't know that Muslims recognize Jesus as
a prophet. Every Muslim everywhere in the world, every time they mention
Jesus' name, they say, ''Peace be upon him.'' And I put those words into
John Walker's mouth. Some words are his. The part about Allah had some
other plan, that's a John Walker quote.
You've written a lot of songs in other people's voices: a prison
guard's, a double murderer's and a marijuana grower's. Have you ever
thought about writing one from John Ashcroft's perspective?
Ashcroft? I actually did toy with the idea of a song that dealt directly
with fundamentalism, and John Ashcroft figured into it, but it probably
wouldn't have been anywhere near as balanced. I really believe that if
the Bush administration could get rid of him without looking stupid,
he'd be gone now. Dick Cheney scares me. He's way too quiet. But John
Ashcroft doesn't scare me.
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