Sunday, March 25, 2007

Come Together Right Now Over Him

by Joyce Marcel
I've often wondered if George W. Bush, like Richard Nixon before him, has an enemies list. If he does, he's lucky to be living in the computer age, because keeping track of so many names on paper would be difficult.

Bush is Nixon 2.0. He's Nixon on steroids. He has the Patriot Act, Guantanamo and secret prisons in Eastern Europe. He has made sure that the machinery of the state is behind him as he welds his corrupt power. He not only beats out Nixon, he beats out Chile's Pinochet. Will we ever know how many people have "disappeared"?

What, I wonder, would Bush and Richard Cheney have done with John Lennon?

The 2006 documentary "The U.S. vs. John Lennon," by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld, tells the story of Lennon's persecution at the hands of the U.S. government. It shows how we've been down this road before, and the only difference is that the Bush machine has refined the methods and the menace.

It's hard to believe today, but yes, the U.S. government actually persecuted John Lennon. At the brilliant suggestion of Strom Thurmond, and with the power of FBI head J. Edgar Hoover ("Ours is a just cause... We seek divine guidance to uphold the cause of democracy.") behind it, the U. S. Immigration Service tried to lift Lennon's visa because of a long-ago drug charge in the U.K. (While they allowed other rock stars, also with U.K. drug arrests on their records, to come and go as they pleased).

What on earth was the Nixon administration afraid of? Several things. First, at the height of their fame, Lennon and the Beatles truly were more popular than Jesus. They were loved and adored all over the world. And they were rich!

Second, in 1971 young people were given the right to vote. It meant that in the upcoming 1972 presidential election, Nixon would be facing an electorate that contained 11 million new voters who were certainly bigger fans of Lennon than than they were of him.

And third, Lennon and Yoko Ono had met and were supporting a wide variety of revolutionary types, people like Jerry Rubin, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale and Abby Hoffman.

As a measure of Lennon's power in the political arena, he played a weekend concert to free John Sinclair, a Michigan man in prison for 10 years for giving two joints of marijuana to a federal officer. The next Monday, Sinclair was released.

There's no question that Lennon and Ono were terrified at the Kafkaesque way the Nixon government harassed them. Their phones were obviously tapped. The men who were following them made sure that they were seen. It would have been easy for Lennon and Ono to retreat, either by keeping their mouths shut, moving back to England or going to live anywhere else in the world.

But Lennon liked New York, and being an antiestablishment kind of guy, he chose to fight the INS in court.

We all know what happened. Nixon won reelection by a landslide - in truth, the great 18- to 21-year-old voting wave has never materialized in this country. Even today, they're too busy sneering and being "in the know" while Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert make fun of the government to actually get out and vote.

The Lennons bravely fought on.

And Nixon eventually resigned.

Four years later, on his birthday and the day his son was born, Lennon received his green card.

A few years later he was murdered by some twerp who wanted a piece of his fame.

And a few decades later, Nixon died a natural death and was buried with full presidential honors.

Do we have any musician, actor or artist today who is powerful enough to stand up to the government the way Lennon did in 1970? The sad answer is that we don't.

Bono is too busy smoking cigars with the big guys.

Bruce Springsteen tried. In 2004 he organized a series of concerts

- The Vote for Change tour - featuring himself, the Dixie Chicks, Dave Matthews and a host of other musicians with large followings. They toured in seven states and finished with a big concert in Washington, D.C. As usual, people came out for the concert but not for the vote. Bush won - although maybe that isn't the right word for it, and today, although cornered, he is far from resigning.

And the Iraq War has just moved into its fifth year.

Well, you say you want a revolution. Some of you stand vigil in the streets, holding signs protesting the war. Some of you are working hard for impeachment. Some of you, at this point, might be so justifiably frustrated that you're considering violence. Some of you - especially Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vermont) - are attacking Bush in the solar plexus of his illegalities.

The Bush "enemies list" grows longer every day. I can't help but wonder if there's going to be a tipping point, as there was for Nixon, when Bush and Cheney recognize that the forces against them have become overwhelming, when they finally admit defeat and resign.

Or will they fight tooth and nail to protect their rogue and criminal presidency?

All of us together have to make up a wave that will sweep these men out of office. All of us together have to put our names and our bodies on the line. All of us together have to make up for the fact that there's no John Lennon in the world anymore.


A collection of Joyce Marcel's columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through And write her at


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