3.16.2007

all we are saying

As Movie Season winds down, we saw another good one last night: "The U.S. v. John Lennon". It's a documentary about John Lennon's transformation from apolitical musician to peace activist, and his fight to stay in the U.S. - specifically in New York City - despite the politically motivated deportation proceedings against him. Through that lawsuit, Lennon's paranoid beliefs were confirmed: he had been under FBI surveillance.

There are clips of interviews with Walter Cronkite, Gore Vidal, George McGovern, Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Bobby Seale, and on the other side of the divide, G. Gordon Liddy, and a former FBI staffer, as well as Yoko Ono and close friends of Ono's and Lennon's.

The movie is also full of archival clips from the 1960s and 1970s, but it's not the usual footage that we've all seen hundreds of times. Filmmakers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld used some eye-opening clips that really held my interest.

"Held my interest" is a bit of a euphemism there. I wept through much of this movie: hearing Nixon tout his "secret plan" to end the war in 1969, knowing in reality he was escalating the aggression and widening it, knowing how many people were yet to die - seeing the massive protests, the head-smashing in Chicago, the murders in Ohio. At least hearing that scumbag Liddy blame the protesters - "What did they expect?" - got me back from sorrow to anger. But soon tears were running down my face again. Mostly for my country, doing it all over again.

I wept, too, listening to the chants in Chicago, as the cops split heads and beat the backs of peaceful protesters, as the bloodied bodies were hauled off, the rest of the protesters chanting, The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching... I wept because the US government learned those lessons so well. Now no one can watch.

And speaking of chanting, I'm pretty sure there was footage from my first political action ever, the 1969 Moratorium. I was 8 years old. I went to Washington DC with my father, on a bus with textile workers and other union types. We held our arms in the air, our fingers signifying peace, proudly waving our arms in unison, more than a million of us, in front of the Washington Monument, chanting, All we are saying... is give peace a chance.... all we are saying... is give...

More than ever I feel that the peace movement in the US won't break wide open, won't reach the massive level too huge to be ignored, until there is a draft. And, as Allan said last night, that's why they're doing everything possible to avoid that politically unattractive necessity. Yet until young men and women are being hauled off to the Middle East in large numbers - large, middle class numbers - the peace movement will struggle for traction.

The movie also made me think about timing, about the arc of justice. All of us who are old enough to remember other movements need to help younger activists understand how long these things take - how there is no such thing as immediate results. That is, we need to talk about how a movement builds. By 1970, 1971, massive anti-war demonstrations were commonplace in the United States - but the end of the war was many years, and many deaths, away. The war ended because of the movement. The movement succeeded. But it took a very long time and a tremendous amount of work.

During Lennon and Ono's Bed-In in Montreal, a reporter asked about their billboards, how much is this costing you, where are you getting the money? He said, Whatever it costs, it's less than a human life.

I was never a huge John Lennon fan or follower, although I acknowledge his talents as a songwriter. Seeing this movie, I gained a new appreciation of Lennon's commitment to peace activism. I realized he was a true hero of social justice.

I also really appreciated the fair and admiring treatment of Yoko Ono. When I was younger, Ono was universally - and, I thought, unfairly - despised as "the woman who broke up the Beatles". People didn't understand her art, didn't seem to understand that the Beatles were obviously going to break up anyway, as they grew up and in different directions, and, amazingly to me, didn't understand that John Lennon was a grown man who made his own decisions. In "The U.S. vs. John Lennon," you see that in Ono, Lennon had found his true life partner, and as a team, they both flourished.

This movie is well worth seeing, especially if you stand for peace.

11 comments:

Dick Hertz said...

One comment I've gotten on my potential move to Canada is, "no, stay and fight! Don't give up! Try and make where you are a better place!"

As you said, fat lot of good that did us.

Jere said...

I don't remember her saying that. I thought her position was that Canada was more in tune with the way she lived. It's not that she felt there was no winning the fight--in fact, she talks about how a movement can succeed in time, in this very post.

How is Mike Hunt doing, by the way?

GREAT line--"now no one can watch"

L-girl said...

As you said, fat lot of good that did us.

...

I don't remember her saying that. I thought her position was that Canada was more in tune with the way she lived.


I have said that, but it was not about ending the war in Iraq. There's some confusion here, I'll clarify.

My reasons for moving to Canada were many and varied, as any life change of this magnitude is going to be. Canadian society definitely reflects my values more than the US. That is true.

To the "stay and fight" crowd, my position has been, I fought all my life, and things have only gotten worse. I'm tired of fighting. I want to live in a place where activists are actually moving things forward, not struggling just to stay in place, while the society is moving further backwards every day.

I did feel fighting had become useless - in the personal sense, in terms of my own life.

I would never say that the fight to end the war in Iraq (Afghanistan, Iran, etc) is useless. That fight is essential. It must be fought, and we must prevail.

she talks about how a movement can succeed in time, in this very post.

Yes, exactly. The anti-war movement in the US right now has a perfect model from which to draw hope and inspiration. Another generation - older, but young enough to still be around - actually ended a war. There are books and movies and papers documenting that movement. It's there for all of us to study and emulate and improve upon.

I think in order to fight the good fight, people must have hope, must believe their struggle can prevail. We can look to Vietnam days to know that we can.

And when we look there, we'll also see that it doesn't take a few months or one large demo to do it.

I hope that clarifies.

L-girl said...

How is Mike Hunt doing, by the way?

Hee hee.

GREAT line--"now no one can watch"

Thank you my friend. :)

James said...

the murders in Ohio

Tin soldiers & Nixon's coming...

L-girl said...

Tin soldiers & Nixon's coming...

Yes, that's the iconic picture, and that's the song.

I remember both my parents crying while watching the news. It was very frightening.

L-girl said...

The Wikipedia entry on the Kent State massacre is pretty good.

L-girl said...

Here is an eyewitness account.

James said...

The Wikipedia entry on the Kent State massacre is pretty good.

Here's an important paragraph to remember from that page:

On May 14 of the same year, two students at the historically black Jackson State University were shot to death and several others wounded, under more questionable circumstances, and without arousing as much nationwide attention as the Kent State shootings had.

L-girl said...

And one more: Was the Kent State massacre provoked by the FBI?

L-girl said...

Here's an important paragraph to remember from that page:

Jackson State shootings and memorial

It seems like very little is known about what really happened there. (I mean, other than the cops killed a lot of people.) You can sense the confusion in the story.