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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Cat Named Trapper Falls Victim to Another Rusty Leghold Trap in British Columbia


On August 18th Cat Defender published a story about a beautiful orange cat nicknamed Hopalong Cassidy who had lost a limb to a leghold trap in Ellison, British Columbia (See "Brave Orange Tabby Cat Dubbed Hopalong Cassidy Loses Limb to Leghold Trap in British Columbia"). Sadly, these diabolical torture devices have claimed another victim. This time around it is a black and white cat named Trapper who was discovered recently dragging around a rusty trap in the Hatzic Prairie area of Mission, British Columbia. Mission is a small town of 32,000 residents 62 kilometers outside of Vancouver.

The wounded cat first came to the attention of an unidentified kindhearted couple when a dog attempted to chase it up a tree. Taking matters into their own hands, they were able to corral the frightened cat, remove the deadly trap, and then take him to the Cedar Grove Animal Hospital. Trapper's left front paw, which had been punctured in several places, was badly swollen but luckily there were no broken bones. Staff attendants Nikki Gerard and Erica Robinson, pictured above left to right with Trapper and trap, were able to medicate and then soak the paw and the cat is expected to regain use of the leg.

Based on the severity of the swelling, it is assumed that Trapper had been dragging around the crippling device with him for some time and had he not found help when he did he would most likely have died of either gangrene, starvation, or predation. As things were, he was dehydrated, hungry, and in severe pain when found, Robinson told the Mission City Record.

Being a domestic as opposed to a feral cat also worked in his favor. Feral cats, even when injured, are so frightened of humans that it is difficult to get near them. Because of his friendliness, Gerard and Robinson believe that Trapper is from a loving family although no one has yet come forward to claim him.

Although leghold traps are illegal in British Columbia this has not stopped their proliferation. Sometimes ailurophobes use them to target cats while at other times felines end up as unintended victims. In any case, individuals using these traps should be jailed for a long, long time. Hopalong Cassidy lost a leg to one of them but, hopefully, brave little Trapper will make a full recovery and go on to have a long and happy life.

Photo: Carol Aun, Mission City Record

Friday, December 23, 2005

Virginia Cat Hoarder Who Killed 221 Cats and Kept Another 354 in Abominable Conditions Gets Off With $500 Fine


In what has to be one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in history, a Fairfax County, Virginia cat hoarder who killed two-hundred-twenty-one cats through either neglect, starvation, or just plain meanness and kept another three-hundred-fifty-four in a squalor of excrement and inbreeding was let off last week with a minuscule fine of $500.

Eighty-three year old Ruth Knueven (See photo above), formerly of Ludgate Drive in Mount Vernon, beat the rap after her shyster, Jonathan D. Frieden, convinced General District Court Judge Donald P. McDonough that his client was not only mentally ill but also a devout lover of cats. In a plea bargain worked out earlier with the prosecution, Knueven, who now resides in Prince William County because her previous home (See photo at the bottom of the page) was declared uninhabitable due to a thick buildup of feline urine and feces, was allowed to plead guilty to one charge of misdemeanor animal cruelty in exchange for the dropping of four related charges against her.

In a thinly-veiled attempt to cover up his own complicity in the killings, McDonough first sentenced Knueven to 360-days in the stir and fined her $2,500. He then suspended the sentence and reduced the fine to a paltry $500. The defendant was placed on probation for one year and barred from owning any more cats. The judge is quoted in the December 15th edition of the Washington Post as saying that he was excusing Knueven's behavior because it was "undertaken initially in the spirit of generosity and care, however misguided." (See "Woman Admits Guilt in Cat Case.")

Frieden, who successfully argued that his client suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, told the court, "She loved these animals. She thought they needed her, and she was afraid to call the authorities, fearing they'd be euthanized."

Frieden's rhetorical flourish is disingenuous and McDonough's compassion is misplaced. As reported by Cat Defender on July 21th (See "Northern Virginia Woman Caught Hoarding 575 Cats"), this is not Knueven's first brush with the law. Back in August of 2001, authorities removed one-hundred-fifteen cats from her home but unwisely allowed her to keep five other cats. It is not known how many dead ones were removed. In July of this year, 306 live cats and 87 dead ones were removed from a house that Knueven shared with her husband. A few days later, 48 live cats and 134 dead ones were removed from the home of her fifty-seven year old daughter, Karen Forrest, on Lakepointe Drive in nearby Burke. During the interim between searches, Knueven was even so brazen as to attempt to obstruct justice by shuttling the cats between houses.

The Washington Post is not honest enough to admit it, but most likely all 354 cats trapped at both residences (See photo above of a policeman with several caged cats) were later exterminated by animal control personnel. Although these licensed cat killers trot out all the usual justifications for their barbarism -- cats are too wild, diseased, inbred, etc., in reality they hate cats and are all too eager to snuff out their fragile lives. Even if that is overstating it a bit, it would not make any difference because in addition to being murderers they are too cheap to board them and too bone-lazy to find them homes. In Virginia, as is the case everywhere else in the corrupt-to-the-core United States, nearly all public spending from here until doomsday is already earmarked for the pockets of crooked politicians and the clients that they serve.

Tufts veterinarian Gary Patronek, who is an expert on animal hoarding, is not persuaded that hoarders are motivated by altruistic concerns. On the contrary, he is convinced that they are mentally disturbed exploiters of animals. Specifically, he believes that the process of collecting and then subsequently neglecting scores of vulnerable animals fulfills some unrequited need in them and not vice versa.

The trial in Fairfax makes a mockery of justice. In particular, all of the sympathies ladled upon the defendant by both the judge and her lawyer are especially odious in that they were not accompanied by an iota of compassion for the victims. It is high time that the courts recognized the moral imperative that cats are living beings also and that feline life is not any less precious than human life.

By setting the going rate at $500 for killing 575 cats, the court is saying that the life of a cat is worth less than $1. Knueven sure got her money's worth! Although a judge may consider a defendant's age and mental soundness when meting out punishment, neither factor, whether taken singularly or together, should be so construed as to bestow a carte blanche right upon a defendant to massacre cats. Knueven accordingly should have been jailed and fined heavily. Furthermore, since no evidence has been presented by the media that her accomplices are either too old or too mentally deranged to be held accountable, they too should have been forced to stand in the dock.

Photos: NBC4.com

Monday, December 19, 2005

At Least One-Hundred-Thousand Cats and Dogs Were Killed by Katrina Along the Gulf Coast


Katrina conjures up so many vivid mental images: Mother Nature's unrelenting wrath; the huddled masses inside the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center; an old folks home being abandoned and its residents left to die alone; policemen stripping off their uniforms and deserting their posts; prison inmates left to fend for themselves as toxic floodwater quickly rose to their chins; the Red Cross collecting millions of dollars in donations and, in a repeat performance of its unscrupulous conduct in the aftermath of nine-one-one, refusing to spend it on the needy; and, the total lack of any genuine concern or sympathy for the victims by President George Bush, FEMA, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

As far as it is known, the storm claimed more than 1,300 lives along the Gulf Coast and more than one-thousand children remain unaccounted for almost four months later. Eighty per cent of the residents of the Crescent City remain scattered throughout the country in homeless shelters, motel rooms, and mobile homes while real estate pirates, aided and abetted by FEMA and local officials, foreclose on their derelict homes and post eviction notices on their rental units. Soon the bulldozers will be brought in and the capitalists will have accomplished thanks to Mother Nature what they had been unable to achieve through all of their prior machinations: a tabula rasa of the poor and untold billions for themselves.

Writing in the December 14th edition of the World Socialist, Kate Randall put it all into perspective: "Some 100 years ago San Francisco was rebuilt from the rubble of the great earthquake. Thirty-five years prior to that, Chicago was resurrected after the catastrophic fire of 1871. But in the twenty-first century, the decay and parasitism of American capitalism are such that no similar effort is to be made to save New Orleans." In fact, were it not for the intervention of a conscientious federal judge, many of the evacuees would have been tossed out of their motel rooms before Christmas.

It is therefore not surprising that amidst so much human misery that the harsh toll exacted from the animals of the Gulf Coast has all but been forgotten. The San Francisco Chronicle in a November 29th story entitled "The Dogs of New Orleans" estimates that Katrina claimed the lives of around 100,000 cats and dogs. Only 8,500 pets have so far been rescued and of these a minuscule 1,200 have been reunited with their owners. This is in spite of the fact that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Louisiana SPCA have received more than $40 million in donations! The accounts of these organizations, like those of the Red Cross, need to be audited by an outside agency. In addition to the cats and dogs, thousands of farm animals (horses, cows, pigs, etc.), birds, fish, small mammals, and zoo animals were killed either directly by Katrina or from its aftereffects (pollution and a lack of food, water, and care). The ordeal of having been abandoned by their owners and left to fend for themselves in the toxic squalor of post-Katrina New Orleans was perhaps even more traumatic -- and certainly more deadly -- for them than their human counterparts.

Mary Jarman Karr (See top photo of her hugging an amorous cat named Bubba) of Woodinville, Washington, a small but wealthy suburb of 9,000 inhabitants 21 kilometers from Seattle, is one woman who is making a difference in the lives of Katrina's cats. The forty-nine-year-old technology worker just spent seven weeks in the Big Easy rescuing domestic and feral cats. With the aid of a climate-controlled semi-truck lent to her by the HSUS, she recently returned to Woodinville with twenty-eight domestic and thirty-five feral cats as well as two puppies. The Dandelion Dog Rescue in Forks (176 kilometers from Woodinville in Clallam County), which also has a feral cat colony, took in all of the cats except seven which Karr has held on to in addition to the two puppies. The second photo from the top is of her and Trickster, a playful five-year-old, declawed orange and white male. The picture directly below Trickster on the left is of a sickly cat known simply as Pneumonia Kitty while the photograph below it on the right is of a mischievous one-year-old feral male named Charger. The photo at the bottom of the page is of a homeless dog on the run in New Orleans.

Commenting upon the dire straits in which feral cats found themselves in the wake of Katrina, Karr told The Seattle Times in its December 9th edition, "They are the stepchildren of animal welfare. They have very few advocates, but they're living beings, too, and deserve a chance to survive. Now there is no one in New Orleans to create the garbage they used to eat or warm the houses they used to hide beneath. Besides, the ground is so toxic, most will eventually get sick and die. So they do need help to survive."

Dr. Terri Schneider of Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine said it best when she declared that "All of these cats deserve to be well cared for; they can't help where they were born and how they were displaced."

As for Karr, her sojourn in the Big Easy has been a life-changing event and she plans to quit her current job and become a veterinary technician. "It (the trip) really taught me what's important in life," she added.

Photos: John Lok, The Seattle Times (cats) and Sean Gardner, San Francisco Chronicle (dog).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Heather Mills Asks EU to Ban the Sale of Cat and Dog Fur; Paul McCartney Calls for Boycott of Chinese Goods and Olympics


Heather Mills was back in Brussels last week to once again demand that the European Union ban the sale of cat and dog fur within its borders. In particular, she presented evidence that 2,000 to 3,000 domestic cats had been stolen off the streets of the Czech Republic and skinned alive for their fleeces. She also showed members of the European Parliament a baby blanket made from the skins of twenty cats (See photo above).

Although EU member states Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, and Italy already have laws in place banning the sale of cat and dog skins, Ms. Mills and other activists have been campaigning for the past five years to have the EU's executive body, the Commission, enact an EU-wide ban on the importation, export, and trade in cat and dog skins. "How much more do we have to show to get this ban in place?" Ms. Mills asked the parliamentarians. "How many more animals have to be skinned alive before they (the commissioners) go and do something about it?"

The pro-fur lobby across Europe is not only opposed to the ban but in denial as well. On November 29th, Richard D. North told the BBC that Mills' campaign was a ruse designed to attack the legitimate fur trade and that nobody had ever found a large amount of cat and dog fur in England. "The European fur industry would never use it," he declared. "Why bother, when there are lovely skins from properly farmed animals?"

Struan Stevenson, a member of the European Parliament from Scotland, quickly exposed North's broadside as a tissue of lies by saying, "It's cheaper to make these things from cat (sic) and dog (sic) than it is to make synthetic fur." In fact, in his Brussels' office Stevenson has assembled a confiscated coat made from Alsatian (German shepherd) skin, a pelt made from four golden retrievers, and a blanket made from seventy cats. This would seem to buttress claims made by anti-fur campaigners that products made from feline and canine fur are readily available throughout the Continent and in Old Blighty. "It really is time for this trade to be banned and the EU border to be sealed against it," he told the BBC.

The murder and torture of cats and dogs for their pelts is not limited to Europe. Not surprisingly, China kills more than two million cats and dogs each year for their fur. Saint Bernards are also bred and raised for the dinner table. An undercover agent for PETA this past summer filmed live cats being boiled to death in hot water before being skinned by a fleecing machine similar to a clothes dryer. A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in London not only defended the practice to the BBC but moreover laid the blame squarely at the feet of Europeans and Americans who buy and wear fur.

After viewing the PETA footage for the BBC's Six O'Clock News, Heather Mills' famous husband, Paul McCartney (See photo below), said, "This is barbaric. Horrific. It's like something out of the Dark Ages. And they seem to get a kick out of it. They're just sick, sick people."

Not contented with merely condemning these barbaric practices, Paul went on to call for a boycott of all Chinese goods as well as the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. He further vowed that he would never perform in China as long as these practices continued. "I wouldn't even dream of going over there to play, in the same way I wouldn't go to a country that supported apartheid. This is just disgusting. It's just against every rule of humanity. I wouldn't go there," he said.

Paul is a longtime vegetarian, animal rights advocate, and environmentalist who has co-written with Philip Ardagh an ecological fable for children entitled High in the Clouds. The book, which is illustrated by Geoff Dunbar, is aimed at alerting young adults to the perils of pollution, overpopulation, and urban sprawl. His recent album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, has been nominated for three Grammys: Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

Down under on Kangaroo Island, cats are being slaughtered and made into stubby (beer and soft drink) holders, hats, golf club covers, and slippers, according to a December 12th report in The Advertiser out of nearby Adelaide ("Feral Cats Turned into Hats, Slippers"). Worst still, these atrocities are being funded by the state in spite of the fact that they are illegal under Australian law! The fact that Aussies are lining their pockets with the blood from feral cats is not surprising since they have vowed to exterminate all of them as well as millions of wild horses, camels, donkeys, pigs, cane toads, foxes, rabbits, and goats. (See Cat Defender post of October 20th entitled "After Ridding Ohio Statehouse of Rats, Cats now Find Themselves Facing Eviction.")

The illegal trafficking in cat and dog pelts also occurs in the United States and a few years back several retailers in New Jersey were caught selling clothing made from feline and canine fur. It is difficult to tell how widespread this practice is because products made from cat and dog fur can only be identified by subjecting them to expensive genetic tests. Most all fur looks pretty much the same to the untrained eye and, besides, only connoisseurs paying big bucks care whether a coat or jacket is made of either mink or cat fur. Clearly, it is useless for the politicians in America, Europe, Australia, or elsewhere to pass laws banning the slaughter of cats and dogs for their fur if these laws are not going to be rigorously enforced.

Photos: Geert van den Wijngaert for the Associated Press (Heather Mills) and Ireland Online (Paul McCartney).

Friday, December 09, 2005

Adventurous Wisconsin Cat Named Emily Makes an Unscheduled Trip to France in the Hold of a Cargo Ship

Emily Aboard Continental Airlines on Her Way Home

"Only a Frenchman could understand the fine and subtle qualities of the cat."
-- Théophile Gautier
Curiosity has claimed the life of more than one cat. So, too, has unescorted roaming.

This world is, unfortunately, full of dangers and evil people that the feline brain can never hope to comprehend. When Emily, a thirteen-month old brown and gray cat from Appleton, Wisconsin, wandered into the distribution center of a local paper company little did she know that this would be the beginning of a two-month odyssey that would take her to France and back home again.

Emily is an adventurous cat. According to her guardians, Donny and Lesley McElhiney, she has left home before and even once spent two weeks in an animal shelter before they were able to locate and reclaim her. When she pussyfooted into the paper distribution plant back in late September she got more than she bargained for in terms of adventure and it nearly cost her all nine of her lives.

She somehow got trapped inside a twenty-foot cargo container filled with rolls of paper that was then trucked to Chicago. From the Windy City the container was sent on a four-day train trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it was offloaded onto a cargo ship bound for Antwerp, Belgium. From there Emily was forced to endure another one-week sea voyage to Pompey, France, at which juncture the cargo container was unloaded once again and trucked an additional ten kilometers to its final destination in Nancy, a city of one-hundred-three-thousand inhabitants and located two-hundred-eighty-one kilometers west of gai Paris.

When the container was finally opened on October 24th at Raflatac, a laminating and labeling company, the French workers were surprised to find a cat inside. They immediately dubbed the thirsty and hungry cat Raflacat.

Emily and George Chiladze on the Plane

The fact that she had survived more than three weeks without food and water is a miracle in itself. Moreover, the loneliness, fear, despair, and claustrophobia that she must have experienced during her long ordeal would have been far too much for most humans. Somehow and some way she lived through it all and, ironically, her rescue came on the date of her first birthday!

According to press reports, the French authorities usually kill stray cats but the employees of Raflatac used information contained on Emily's collar in order to notify her veterinarian in Appleton who in turn contacted the McElhineys. Ironically, she was not even wearing her own collar but rather one that belonged to another of the McElhineys' cats. That certainly was in keeping with her history of divesting herself of collars but luckily this time she had one around her little neck.

Since under French law all immigrant pets must be quarantined for thirty days, Emily spent the following month in detention which Raflatac generously paid for to the tune of $7 per day. "Only a Frenchman could understand the fine and subtle qualities of the cat," Théophile Gautier once observed and evidently there is more than a little bit of truth in his declaration.

Once her confinement was over, Continental Airlines then stepped forward and generously volunteered to fly Emily home for free.  "I will make somebody really happy to deliver this poor traveler back home." company employee George Chiladze, who accompanied Emily on the first leg of her trip home from Charles de Gaulle Airport, thirty kilometers north of Paris, to Newark, told the CBC on December 1st. (See "The Cat Has Landed Back in Wisconsin.")

Emily and George traveled in a business-class seat that normally sells for $6,000. "I think she deserves business," airline spokesperson Philippe Fleury told the CBC. "I don't think she will drink champagne anyway, but I think she will be happy to rest."

Emily Waits Patiently at Charles de Gaulle Airport 

As to why Continental took the initiative, Fleury said only that since it was such a "marvelous story" the airline wanted to add "something to it." Although the young cat was alert for takeoff , she reportedly slept most of the way to Newark. When feeding time came she, with typical feline insouciance, turned up her dainty little nose at the business-class fare of peppered salmon fillet and instead opted for a more mundane bowl of French cat food and water.

At Newark International, George handed over Emily to Continental Airlines cargo agent Gaylia McLeod who accompanied her the remainder of the way to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee aboard a fifty-seater. "I know it's close to the holidays," McLeod said. "I'm happy to be a part of reuniting Emily with her family."

Upon her arrival in Brew Town last Thursday evening, Emily was greeted by a mob of reporters, photographers, and cameramen who were on hand to record her reunion with the McElhineys and their nine-year old son, Nicky, all of whom had driven one-hundred-seventy-three kilometers from Appleton in order to collect her. "She'll be held onto a lot," Donny told the Los Angeles Times on December 2nd. (See "Stowaway Cat Back Home After a Long Trip to France.") "She's a great present."

Commenting on Emily's grueling ordeal, his wife, Lesley, noted that "the diva," as she calls her, had probably used up a good deal of her nine lives. "She probably has half a life left," she added.

Emily Is Reunited with Donny, Lesley, and Nicky McElhiney in Milwaukee

In addition to Donny, Lesley, and Nicky, Emily will be sharing quarters with Abbey, Nicky's five-year old sister, and resident felines eleven-year-old Tori and seven-year-old Ringo at the McElhiney household in Appleton, a town of seventy-thousand residents one-hundred-forty-two kilometers north of Milwaukee. Although the globetrotting feline is now officially grounded, Lesley admits that keeping her at home will not be easy because she likes to hide when the door is left open and knows when a person's hands are full. That may be even more the case now that she has seen France and become accustomed to French cuisine.

There may be a more deep-seated motivation behind Emily's perambulations and collar sheddings other than a love of adventure. It is entirely possible that the McElhiney household with two other cats and two young children is simply too busy and noisy for her tastes. Cats, after all, like peace, quiet, and to be left alone.

It would be a nice gesture on the part of the McElhineys if they were to send the employees of Raflatac a few pounds of Wisconsin cheese to go along with their excellent le vin de francaise. After all, it was their concern and generosity that saved Emily's life.

Emily's triumph against all odds brings to mind the remarkable story of a shorthaired black cat named Cheyenne who made headlines last year. On April Fools Day in 2004 she was discovered walking down Divisadero Street in San Francisco and taken to a local shelter where a scan of an implanted microchip revealed that she had disappeared from Bradenton, Florida, seven years previously! She later was reunited with her previous caregiver, Pamela Edwards, thanks to air transportation paid for by actress Ellen DeGeneres.

Emily and Nicky Share a Tender Moment

Edwards had originally believed that Cheyenne had fallen prey to either alligators or some other catastrophe and was dead. Officials at the shelter surmised, however, that a far more likely scenario was that she had been picked up by someone in Florida who had then either driven or flown her to California. Of course, it is always possible that she could have gotten trapped inside a moving crate like Emily and therefore wound up on the West Coast.

"She has glossy fur, good weight," Deb Campbell of the Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) told the San Francisco Chronicle on April 22, 2014. (See "Missing Florida Cat Shows Up in San Francisco -- Seven Years Later.") "She definitely looks in good condition, so I don't think she walked here."

Edwards had adopted Cheyenne in 1997 from a shelter in Manatee County, Florida, which was among the first in the state to implant microchips in cats and without that revolutionary identification device it is highly unlikely that the duo ever would have been reunited."For a cat missing across the country to be found several years later, that's a first for me," Mara Lamboy of the DACC told the Chronicle in the article cited supra. "That connection never in a million years would have been made without a microchip."

Like Emily, Cheyenne was returned to a crowded household in that Edwards has acquired three new cats since her disappearance. "I feel sorry for Cheyenne because I'm sure she doesn't remember me," she told the Chronicle. "I'm hoping that she'll merge nicely with our other cats."

Cheyenne and Mara Lamboy

As the examples of Emily and Cheyenne conclusively demonstrate, cats lead not only secretive and solitary existences, but precarious ones as well. In addition to being poisoned, intentionally run down by motorists, and preyed upon by ailurophobes and dogs, they can be either stolen or become trapped inside shipping containers.

Equipping a cat with a collar is a good idea if the cat can be persuaded to wear it and not shed it at the first opportunity like Emily has been known to do. Collars do, however, have one huge limitation: they can be easily removed by cat thieves.

Microchipping is undoubtedly a surer method of protecting a cat but the devices must be surgically implanted and that requires the use of anesthesia and there is always the remote chance that a cat will not wake up after surgery. Infections resulting from the incision are another concern.

Cats need and should have their freedom but with it also comes risks. Cats given too much free rein sometimes wind up dead and that in turn breaks their owners' hearts. There is not any easy answer to this dilemma but the amount of freedom given to any cat should be weighed against the feline's prior history. For instance, is he or she accustomed to being out-of-doors? Also, the dangers present in the neighborhood must be taken into consideration.

Both Emily and Cheyenne are brave and remarkable cats who have suffered much and overcome much as well.

Photos: Christophe Ena of the Associated Press (Emily on plane and at airport check-in), Kirk Wagner of the Appleton Post-Crescent (Emily's homecoming), and Michael Macor of the San Francisco Chronicle (Cheyenne and Lamboy).

Monday, December 05, 2005

Remembering John Lennon: A Great Songwriter and a Brave Political Activist Who Also Loved Cats

John Lennon

"Doesn't have a point of view,
Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?
Nowhere Man, please listen,
You don't know what you're missing,
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command."
-- John Lennon, "Nowhere Man."

He was a wild and reckless teddy boy from the rough and tumble side of Liverpool who grew into a visionary and a dreamer, a songwriter and a singer, a revolutionary and a peace activist and, ultimately, a martyr and a cultural icon. John Lennon was many things to many people, but to a generation that grew up during that magical moment in history known as the 'Sixties he was a hero. He was also brave. He was not afraid to take on the establishment either in the words to his songs or in his actions. Unfortunately, it was his accessibility and courage which in the end cost him his life.

It is difficult to believe that come this Thursday John will have been gone twenty-five years! More alarmingly, the world has changed so much from the time of the rollicking 'Sixties as to be nearly unrecognizable. Did his killer act alone or was he acting at the behest of the Federal government? It is difficult to say but his son, Sean, apparently still believes the latter in that he filed a lawsuit to that effect against the government back in the late 1990s. Whatever the story, John is dead and he will not be coming back. His death has left a gaping hole in the souls of the avant-garde that will never be filled. A quarter of a century later, the pain occasioned by his premature death not only refuses to go away but in fact intensifies with each passing year.

A crowd will gather this Thursday evening on Manhattan's Upper West Side at Strawberry Fields to commemorate his passing. Participants will light candles and observe a moment of silence shortly before 11 p.m., the time at which he died. A chorus or two of "Give Peace a Chance" or perhaps "Imagine" will punctuate the stillness of a cold December night. Across the street at the Dakota, Yoko will light a candle in the window. The graybeards in attendance will reminisce about what was and what could have been and wonder aloud how things could have gone so terribly wrong in the world. Whatever happened to all the dreams and ideals of the "Flower Generation?" Those born too late to have been a part of the 1960s will come to see what the fuss is all about but they will never be able to fathom what John and his music meant to the children of the 'Sixties.

In the aftermath of nine-one-one, Clear Channel banned Lennon's music from the airwaves of its more than 1600 radio stations. Paul McCartney's noncontroversial love songs and ballads can still be heard on stations which play oldies and classic rock but John's music only rarely receives airplay anymore. The right-wing has prevailed in cultural matters as well as in politics and economics and the last thing that they want the younger generations to hear are such Lennon standards as "Imagine," "Give Peace a Chance," "Happy Christmas," "Working Class Hero," "All You Need is Love," and "Revolution." The silver anniversary of John's passing is not going completely unnoticed by the capitalist media, however, mainly because of the recent publication of a slew of tell-all books about the rocker. In almost clownish fashion the capitalists seem to be forever torn between their desire to crush all dissent and their never ending lust for profits.

Despite the efforts of Clear Channel and others in the capitalist media, John's music continues to sell well. In addition to the aforementioned classics, Lennon compositions such as "She Loves You," "It's Only Love," "Daytripper," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Nowhere Man," "A Day in the Life," "Ticket to Ride," "I Am the Walrus," "Help," "Norwegian Wood," "It Won't Be Long," "A Hard Day's Night," "Please Please Me," "Real Love," "Free as a Bird," "Watching the Wheels," and "Number Nine Dream," still remain popular. The body of his work has aged well and his message of love and peace is still as pertinent today as it was forty years ago.

John Lennon

In addition to his stupendous accomplishments as a songwriter and political activist, it is a little known fact that John was an avid cat-lover who reportedly at one time kept as many as six cats. In his book, The Last Days of John Lennon, his gofer, Fred Seaman, tells of purchasing cat litter and calf's liver at six dollars a pound for John's cats at the Dakota. It is not known what happened to his felines after he was killed or if Yoko even likes cats. Furthermore, Paul McCartney told Associated Press Entertainment Editor David Bauder in a dispatch published November 19th that at the time of Lennon's death he was having long telephone conversations with John about his cats and baking bread. Clearly, feline companionship was a big part of John's life.

By being an avid cat-lover, John was following in the footsteps of such prominent religious figures as the prophet Mohammad and the current pope, Benedict XVI. Successful politicians such as Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt also loved cats. As far as the litterati are concerned, the list of ailurophiles is almost endless but Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Edgar Allen Poe, Cleveland Amory, and Samuel Johnston stand out.

Although John is gone, his music and his life continue to serve as an inspiration and a source of hope to the many fans he left behind.

Photos: Bob Gruen and Deutsche Presse-Agentur.