“I think all our society is run by insane people for insane objectives… I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal means. If anybody can put on paper what our government and the American government and the Russian… Chinese… what they are actually trying to do, and what they think they’re doing, I’d be very pleased to know what they think they’re doing. I think they’re all insane. But I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.” — John Lennon, 1968
October 9, 2015—Today would have been John Lennon’s 75th birthday. I’m certain everyone reading this knows why I write “would have been.”
John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute is a constitutional attorney specializing in the defense of civil liberties and human rights. He’s written a timely essay for Lennon’s would-be 75th birthday entitled “‘Neutralizing’ John Lennon: One Man Against the ‘Monster'” (the “Monster” of course being the U.S. government). Whitehead poignantly commemorates Lennon’s late-1960’s and 70’s human rights activism, and details the Orwellian harassment of Lennon by the U.S. government. He also illustrates how much more radically empowered the Monster has become since. I encourage everyone to read the essay. You can do so here.
“You gotta remember, establishment, it’s just another name for evil. The monster doesn’t care whether it kills all the students or whether there’s a revolution. It’s not thinking logically, it’s out of control.” — John Lennon, 1969
Indeed, the establishment Monster has inarguably grown more “evil,” “illogical,” and “out of control” since 1969. Beyond Lennon’s incisive insights and Whitehead’s essay, this fact begs a deeper question: where are today’s artists and musicians – Lennon’s would-be modern peers — in this urgent age of the Monster’s heightened civil liberties and human rights abuses? Abuses which include unilateral military interventions, suspension of habeus corpus, warrantless surveillance programs, assaults on the press and whistleblowers, and presidential kill-lists, among others? W’s abuses were disastrous enough. But the current president has expanded them, even once callously bragging “I’m really good at killing people.” The braggadocio was met by nothing but the widespread sound of silence from America’s artists and musicians (save for this guy).
Nixon and the FBI isolated Lennon firmly in their crosshairs. The U.S. government today has both the press and the wider populace in its crosshairs. Just ask The New York Times’ James Risen (here), or James Goodale (here, and here), or liberal constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley (here), or constitutional attorney/journalist Glenn Greenwald (here, and here).
Interestingly, not long ago many artists, like Lennon, wanted to rightly stick-it to the Monster (we’ve covered some who did so in song here). But curiously today, most artists campaign-for, fundraise-for, or party at the White House with the Monster rather than protest against the Monster in the name of human rights and civil liberties. The list with the Monster has included at some point or degree or another, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, Shakira, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, Chris Cornell, Adam Levine, Pete Wentz, Arcade Fire, P Diddy, Jeff Tweedy, Ludacris, Roger Waters, Patti Smith, Pearl Jam, Joan Baez, Michael Stipe, Usher, Bright Eyes, and even Bob Dylan — you all know who they are. What gives?
Essentially, whether they realize it or not, these artists have become part and parcel of the Monster. This is not only terrible for them and art and music in-general, it’s terrible for the entire nation, and the world. Why so deaf, dumb, blind, and downright accommodating to the Monster, aforementioned artists? Why so soft? Why so willfully shallow? Why so flaccidly complicit? Scared? Or…?
What might John Lennon, who possessed a sharply keen understanding of power and human nature, matched by his brutal candor and effortless wit, say about the Monster today, and the artists who continue to support it?
In the spirit of John Lennon, express your answer to the question above by sounding off loudly in the comments section below.
But first, Happy 75th Birthday, John Lennon: