John Lennon: The Last Great Anti-War Activist
by John W. Whitehead
by John W. Whitehead: The
Politics of Fear in America: A Nation at War With Itself
we are saying is give peace a chance. ~ John Lennon
moving tributes that were paid to John Lennons lyrical vision
of a world without war, racial or religious divisions or hunger
at the conclusion of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, theres
really very little real talk of peace anymore.
hear much talk of peace from presidential candidates Barack Obama
or Mitt Romney, both of whom are indebted to the $600 billion military
industrial complex for their campaign dollars. Its the same
military industrial complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower
warned against in his 1961 farewell address to the nation.
hear much about peace from the various talking heads whose mindless
chatter keeps us distracted from the ongoing wars that are bleeding
us dry (the Afghanistan war just marked its 11th anniversary on
Oct. 7, 2012, making it the longest war in U.S. history).
It may be that
John Lennon, born 72 years ago on October 9, 1940, was the last
great iconic anti-war activist of our age. Thrust into the spotlight
as a member of the Beatles and what an incredible spotlight
it was, with the world at their feet it didnt take long
for Lennon to recognize that he could use his celebrity status to
not only communicate his own ideas about the world but change the
way people thought about issues of the day.
interests were as varied as the musical styles he sampled throughout
his 20-year music career. They ranged from distrust of authority
(seen in Working Class Hero), politics (Gimme
Some Truth) and literature (I Am the Walrus) to
spirituality (Across the Universe) and Primal Scream
Therapy (Mother), and he immortalized all of them in
song. Yet paramount among the causes to which Lennon was committed
was his almost single-minded devotion to the anti-war movement,
which moved to the forefront in the wake of his 1969 marriage to
avant-garde artist Yoko Ono.
their infamous Bed-Ins for Peace, Lennon and Ono turned
the tables on the paparazzi that dogged their every move in order
to stage their own unique anti-war happening. It was
an inspired tactic on the duos part, and one that has never
been successfully repeated by any other celebrity of note since
then. Using their honeymoon at the Amsterdam Hilton in March 1969
as a launch pad for their anti-war efforts, the Lennons invited
the worldwide media to join them in their hotel suite, where they
sat in bed for two weeks straight, from nine in the morning to nine
at night, engaging in discussions about world peace. A second Bed-In
followed three months later in Montreal, where Lennon wrote and
recorded what was to become the unofficial refrain of the peace
movement Give Peace a Chance.
1969, Give Peace a Chance had become a universal chant
at anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. On November 15, during a peace
rally in Washington, DC, the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger led
nearly half a million demonstrators in singing Give Peace
a Chance at the Washington Monument. Asked what he thought
about that day, Lennon later remarked, I saw pictures of that
Washington demonstration on British TV, with all those people singing
it, forever and not stopping. It was one of the biggest moments
of my life.
Bed-Ins, Lennon and Ono became even more activist-minded, lending
their support to the plight of the working class by way of a shipbuilders
work-in, railing against the Vietnam War, voicing their discontent
over the brutal murders of 14 unarmed civil rights protesters in
Northern Ireland (memorialized in Luck of the Irish
and Sunday Bloody Sunday), bemoaning the death toll
from the uprising at Attica Prison, and holding forth with leading
American peace activists of the day such as Jerry Rubin and Abbie
Hoffman all the while, using music as the medium for their
message. Released in October 1971, Lennons Imagine
album would become his musical calling card for world peace.
Time, Martin Lewis concludes, Of all Lennons
legacies, one of the most enduring, and perhaps the most impressive,
is who his enemies were. The true measure of his greatness was that
in the 1970s he terrified the most powerful man in the world.
While its open for debate whether Lennon had more enduring
legacies than inspiring terror in government operatives, there is
no doubt that for a little while, at least, he became enemy number
one in the eyes of the U.S. government. This resulted in a four-year
campaign of surveillance and harassment by the U.S. government
spearheaded by J. Edgar Hoover, an attempt by President Richard
Nixon to have him neutralized and deported, and an FBI
file more than 400-pages deep.
Right up until
his death on December 8, 1980, at the hands of an assassin, Lennon
remained true to the anti-war activism that had shaped much of his
life. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the nation he
came to call home. According to the latest report by the Institute
for Economics and Peace, the U.S. spends $2.16 trillion annually
on violence containment that is, anything related to inflicting,
preventing or dealing with the consequences of violence. This includes
everything from costs associated with national defense and law enforcement
to prisons, counterterrorism and border control. Thats a lot
of money roughly one out of every seven dollars spent per year
or $7,000 per American taxpayer annually to not only administer
violence, war and killing but deal with the after-effects of them,
way, the amount we spend 15% of the U.S. economy to administer
and contain violence annually equals the United Kingdoms entire
economic output. That same money, if most of it were channeled into
more productive avenues such as education and health care would
reduce unemployment by 13%.
One can only
imagine what John Lennon would say about a world where more money
is spent on feeding the war machine than on feeding the poor.
attorney and author John W. Whitehead [send
him mail] is founder and president of The
Rutherford Institute. He is the author of The
Change Manifesto (Sourcebooks).
© 2012 The Rutherford Institute
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