Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It was 30 years ago today

So far it's been a crappy New York morning. Not one but two nasty screaming people on the trains. Not one but three trains not running or delayed or otherwise screwed up. Angry impatient crowds crowding each other. Me all the while uptight about running late because there's a new regime at work clocking my arrival to the minute. Just what I need, on top of all my ongoing complaints. I'm tired. I'm not eating right or exercising and as a consequence my body's in awful shape. I'm not getting much writing work done, I'm not doing my part in the struggle very well.

And John is dead.

No, it's not new news. Yes, he's been dead for 30 years today. Yet even after three decades, on this anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, I can still call up the feelings from that night, the awful knowledge that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play nevermore. Two years ago on this same anniversary I wrote about how I heard that night, when I got home from work after the late shift as a city bus driver in Ann Arbor. In that post I also mentioned my story "John and Yoko and Rowena and Me," published in Cream City Review. I wish it were online to link to, because I'm fond of it and would like to share it. While it's of course fictional, it does call up some of the feel of those days. Maybe I'll figure out a way to make it available, says I, as if someone other than me is clamoring for it.

John was no saint. He was at his death rich as Croesus; it's nice to think that if he'd lived he would have shared the wealth, but who knows. He was guilty, by his own admission, of violence against women. His politics were an odd amalgam of anarchism/pacifism/socialism/yippie/performance art. They're easy to dismiss as unserious. On the other hand, he was really committed to his anti-war principles--and did pay a price for that, having to wage a years-long battle against the U.S. government's efforts to deport him. He was working hard at raising his feminist consciousness. He and Yoko brought Bobby Seale onto the Mike Douglas Show, and sang their great song "Attica State" in solidarity with the prisoners who'd risen up and been slaughtered at NY Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's orders. There's fair cause, then, I think, for this wistful pit-of-the-stomach sadness that lingers 30 years on. It's all the what might have beens. He was a great artist. His music is magnificent, and he did contribute in his way to the struggle for peace and justice. What more might he have done?

If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend the movie The U.S. vs. John Lennon for a pretty decent introduction to all this. Plus, I like to think that you can hear my 17-year-old voice shouting during the footage from the December 10, 1971 Free John Sinclair concert.