John Lennon As An Anti War Activist
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Published: Mon, 24 Apr 2017
Beside the valuable contribution to the music career, John Lennon is also known as one of the greatest anti-war activist. Although under the First Amendment the organization that protects the citizens and non-citizens of the United States John’s activities were absolutely legal and appropriated, some Republicans started to worry that there would be a numerous votes against President Richard Nixon in the next reelection campaign due to the popularity of John Lennon. That is why President Nixon and Republican Senator Strom Thurmond considered him as the number one enemy to them. Furthermore, in February 1972, Strom Thurmond advised to revoke John Lennon’s visa and deport him. The secret memo that was sent by Thurmond even wrote “caution must be taken with regard to the possible alienation of the so-called 18-year-old-vote if Lennon is expelled from the country”. So what exactly did John Lennon do that resulted him in a 400 pages FBI file and 4 years campaign under observation and also persecution by the U.S. government?
Gore Vidal, a famous American writer stated “Anyone who sings about love and harmony and life is dangerous to someone who sings about death and killing and subduing” in the movie The U.S versus John Lennon as the explanation for the actions and thoughts of the United States’ government. After getting married with Yoko Ono on March 20th 1969, John Lennon and his wife began their campaign to promote peace with some significant activities namely fund – raising, attending political rallies, composing anti-war songs. He stated “We decided that if we were going to do anything like get married that we would dedicate it to peace. And during that period, because we are what we are, it evolved that somehow we ended up being responsible to produce peace” (John Lennon, Rolling Stone interview 1971). Acknowledged that their wedding could draw attention from the worldwide media, John and Yoko decided to use their honeymoon or the Bed-ins as the non – violent way to protest war. They first started at the Amsterdam Hilton and another was hosted at Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal on May 26, 1969. For the whole week, they invited the press, stayed on bed, ignored all the mockeries and discussed about world peace. In order to explain the idea for those activities, in “Amsterdam” from the Wedding Album, John said, “Anybody could grow their hair for peace or give up a week of their holiday for peace or sit in a bag for peace. Protest against peace, anyway, but peacefully, because we think that peace is only got by peaceful methods”.
During the bed-in in Montreal, when being asked about the purpose of the Bed-ins, John Lennon answered simply that all he was saying is give peace a chance. That is when the song “Give peace a chance” was composed. John supposed that his role in society, or any artists’ role is to try to express their feelings but not to force people to feel the same way. However, this song was widespread incredibly. Not only did “Give peace a chance” peak at the second place in the United Kingdom Singles Chart or reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, but also it became the anthem for the against Vietnam war’s wave. Looking back on that day, John Lennon said that the moment when he saw nearly half a million people sung that song repetitively during the Vietnam Moratorium Day in Washington, DC was one of the greatest memory in his life. In addition, following the song “Give peace a chance”, the Imagine album was recorded and released in October 1971. With the aim of whipping the picture of “the world will live as one” into shape, the song “Imagine” was complimented by Rolling Stone as John’s greatest musical gift to the world. To sum up, it is obvious that John Lennon did open up the new image of world in peace and inspired people with the vision of freedom for life.
On 10th December 1971, John Lennon and many other famous artists participated in the concert demanding freedom for peace activist John Sinclair, who was sentenced in July 1969 for giving two joints of cannabis to an undercover policewoman. In this show, John Lennon emphasized that despite the fact that President Richard Nixon had proclaimed that the war is over, they still dropped two and a half bombs every week while John Sinclair would be put in jail for ten years for his action. To demonstrate his point of view, the lyrics for the song “John Sinclair” of John Lennon was “They give him ten for two”. The concert, which was one of the most important events that ever happened in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was broadcasted live all over the state and attracted 15000 attendances. Eventually, John Sinclair was set free three days after this rally although before that, his appeal was denied by the Michigan Supreme Court.
Those activities and their influence mentioned above are the reasons why Martin Lewis, a Time contributor described John Lennon as the one who made the most powerful man in the world – President Richard Nixon scared. Moreover, he implied that incident was the impressive evidence for John Lennon’s greatness. Then, the FBI began to se the principle of the power of John Lennon and Yoko Ono and some Republicans realized that what they did might do harm to them. According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service chief counsel in 1975, the United State government was more determined to banish John Lennon than that was in their attempts to exile Nazi war criminals. However, with someone like John, who even returned his MBE (Member of the British Empire) as “a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts” (cited in John Lennon’s handwriting letters to the Queen) in 25 November 1969, those attempts by the government seemed inadequate. During the battle of deportation, John Lennon still appeared in some rallies and TV shows and gained a lot of support. Bob Dylan, a well – known musician sent a letter to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, showing his attitude towards this issue.
John and Yoko add a great voice and drive to the country’s so-called art institution. They inspire and transcend and stimulate and by doing so, only help others to see pure light and in doing that, put an end to this dull taste of petty commercialism which is being passed off as Artist Art by the overpowering mass media. Hurray for John and Yoko. Let them stay and live here and breathe. The country’s got plenty of room and space. Let John and Yoko stay!
(Bob Dylan, 1972)
Although John Lennon’s ultimate goal, that is peace for all people on earth or in other words, a world where the money spent feeding the miserable ones larger than that in weapons has not been achieved until now, his spirit, marvelous ideas, meaningful activities still remain their value. On his 20th anniversary of death, Martin Lewis commented respectfully in the article Remembering Lennon “John Lennon was not God. But he earned the love and admiration of his generation by creating a huge body of work that inspired and led. The appreciation for him deepened because he then instinctively decided to use his celebrity as a bully pulpit for causes greater than his own enrichment or self-aggrandizement.” In conclusion, John Lennon is the hero who did “give peace a chance” for what he showed and made us feel. John Lennon has gone but the inspirit that he left will never fade away.
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