Prove Violence Doesn’t Work: Do Good in John Lennon’s Name This Dec. 8th!

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Michael Gerber

Publisher at The American Bystander
is Blogmom of Hey Dullblog. His novels and parodies have sold 1.25 million copies in 25 languages. He lives in Santa Monica, CA, and runs The American Bystander all-star print humor magazine.
Michael Gerber
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Imagine No Gun ViolenceThis morning I had a great idea: “Wouldn’t it be great if everybody who loved John Lennon and The Beatles did something nice in his name on December 8th? Something that he might’ve done, if he were still here with us…like donating to the ACLU; eating organic (or even macrobiotic) for a day; spending some extra time with a kid; making some art that showed love for people and hope for the world…Wouldn’t it be wonderful to turn a tragic anniversary into something awesome? And wouldn’t that show, once and for all, that violence doesn’t work unless we allow it to?”

Like all contemporary great ideas, it involves a Facebook page, which is here. I’m no great whiz with Facebook, so any tips on how to make it work better are much appreciated.

I’ve been chewing these thoughts over for a while, as shown by this passage from Life After Death for Beginners:

“Do whatever you think that person would’ve done. A million people doing one good act—it’s as if your hero lived many lifetimes. That’ll drive the bad guys barmy. They’ll learn that violence doesn’t work. But the best thing is, you’ll have done it yourself. You didn’t wait for Mommy or Daddy to make things better. Be your own hero. That’s what I want you to do. That’s what they’re afraid of.”

I’ll probably do a couple of small things, but one will definitely be giving money to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which was the Yoko-approved charity in the years after John’s death. “Like” the page, share your own ideas, and spread the word!

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19 Comments

  1. Avatar Wolynski wrote:

    Yoko can give to a Yoko-approved charity – she has more money than the rest of us put together.

    Giving to charity is a BAD idea. That we still need charity in the 21st century boggles the mind.

    I myself only give to struggling artists and not much, because I’m struggling myself.

    Can we celebrate Lennon without involving money?

  2. This is a great idea. Better still, I have until December 8 to think of something. Until then, a donation to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence will have to do.

    I always admired John’s ability to turn things, bend them to serve his own ends, as he did with the whole idea of saturation advertising right after his and Yoko’s marriage. He knew it would be a media circus, so he decided to be the ringmaster and make the whole thing an advertisement for peace. He didn’t even care if it made him look foolish to some people.

    I think this was the aspect of his personality that also enabled him to pose publicly in ways we maybe wish he hadn’t, but he didn’t care how we felt about that, either. If he thought it was important, he’d do it; and if it was worth doing, it was worth doing publicly.

    It was part of that uncanny ability he had – to take something intensely personal, something we couldn’t possibly have the same feelings about, and make us personalize it anyway. Paul sang about “My Love”, which, for him, was Linda, but he phrased the lyrics in such a way as to make them universal: “My Love” could be Your Love, too. But John sang “O, Yoko” or “Hold On, Yoko”. And even though there’s no Yoko in my life, these songs work for me on a personal level. “Beautiful Boy”, which mentions Sean by name at the end, nevertheless makes me tear up thinking of my own son, but, at the same time, it makes me choke up at the line “I can hardly wait to see you come of age” … because I know John Lennon did not live to Sean Lennon come of age.

    I don’t know which is more affecting to me. I guess they are both equally affecting.

    I don’t mean this post as a John versus Paul thing, either, because I hate that.

    But I think John’s excesses could also be his strengths. The part of his personality that led him to abase himself publicly as he did in that photo you posted a few days ago was also the part that gave us those personal songs that yet somehow strike a universal chord; it was also the part that gave us the bed-ins for peace.

    Yikes! Sorry. You can have your blog back, now. Assuming the blogger software doesn’t give me that “Comment too long” error again.

  3. This is a great idea. Better still, I have until December 8 to think of something. Until then, a donation to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence will have to do.

    I always admired John’s ability to turn things, bend them to serve his own ends, as he did with the whole idea of saturation advertising right after his and Yoko’s marriage. He knew it would be a media circus, so he decided to be the ringmaster and make the whole thing an advertisement for peace. He didn’t even care if it made him look foolish to some people.

    I think this was the aspect of his personality that also enabled him to pose publicly in ways we maybe wish he hadn’t, but he didn’t care how we felt about that, either. If he thought it was important, he’d do it; and if it was worth doing, it was worth doing publicly.

    It was part of that uncanny ability he had – to take something intensely personal, something we couldn’t possibly have the same feelings about, and make us personalize it anyway. Paul sang about “My Love”, which, for him, was Linda, but he phrased the lyrics in such a way as to make them universal: “My Love” could be Your Love, too. But John sang “O, Yoko” or “Hold On, Yoko”. And even though there’s no Yoko in my life, these songs work for me on a personal level. “Beautiful Boy”, which mentions Sean by name at the end, nevertheless makes me tear up thinking of my own son, but, at the same time, it makes me choke up at the line “I can hardly wait to see you come of age” … because I know John Lennon did not live to Sean Lennon come of age.

    I don’t know which is more affecting to me. I guess they are both equally affecting.

    I don’t mean this post as a John versus Paul thing, either, because I hate that.

    But I think John’s excesses could also be his strengths. The part of his personality that led him to abase himself publicly as he did in that photo you posted a few days ago was also the part that gave us those personal songs that yet somehow strike a universal chord; it was also the part that gave us the bed-ins for peace.

    Yikes! Sorry. You can have your blog back, now. Assuming the blogger software doesn’t give me that “Comment too long” error again.

  4. Okay, your blog seems to have eated my comment again. I need an editor, I guess. So, yet again, I either sent the same comment 50 times, or not at all.

    Sorry.

  5. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Absolutely, Wolynski! I originally had a bunch of other ideas–just top-of-head stuff–but cut them for space.

    You know what Lennon was about; you know the kind of things he’d be doing. Do one, whichever fits with you–some art, maybe?

    The point is what gets done, not who does them; a person can die, but what we admire and respect about that person doesn’t have to stop. So go to it, man!

  6. Avatar Michael wrote:

    That’s a great comment, Glaven. I could get into a lot of psychobabble about it, but that’s not necessary.

    We love comments at Dullblog; the only danger is that we may ask long commenters to start posting!

    (I’m not kidding.)

  7. Fo’ realz? Ask away! I’m always happy to write about the Fabs.

  8. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Glaven, the other Dullbloggers have given the thumbs up. Drop me a line via mikegerber.com with what you’d like to write about.

  9. Avatar Cara wrote:

    As the principal of an elementary school in a tough part of town, I’ve started a mini peace campaign… we’ve trained kids to be Peacekeepers on the yard, and the theme of our holiday program will be “Peace on Earth.” I’m also toying with a “think peace” curriculum for my bigger kids dealing with tolerance and conflict resolution. You’ve now challenged me to try to kick off “think peace” on December 8th…. great idea. Thanks! Oh, and peace.

  10. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Cara! That’s fantastic! I think John Lennon would’ve LOVED that, don’t you?

    If you’re on Facebook, please post to the page’s Wall! People will want to hear about this.

    Does your school know about GoodShop/GoodSearch? It might be a way to raise a bit of money for supplies, etc. Email me at mikegerber.com if you want details.

  11. Avatar Nancy wrote:

    Really enjoying reading your thoughts, Glaven and Mike. Glaven, your explanation of why you appreciate John’s making the private public helps me get past my instinctive distaste for some of the more extreme posing and think again about what it was John and Yoko were trying to do.

    I can’t help also feeling, though, that the public posing — however sincere — also played into a celebrity/commodity dynamic that is pretty destructive. John wanted to sell peace like soap, as he said, but I’m afraid that one thing we’re seeing now is how everything can be commodified and emptied of meaning, the way peace sings have been (in my opinion). That they’re plastered all over clothes, accessories, and housewares at all the giant discount stores can be read as either a) lots of people are for peace, b) this is a symbol that no longer means anything specific enough to offend anyone, or c) some of both. I tend towards c), and wish I felt sure it were more a) than c).

    Same goes, for me, with John and Yoko being ringmasters of the publicity circus. It took courage to do what they did with the bed-ins, etc., and they did change peoples’ perceptions in some positive ways. But I think they also helped create the oversharing, reality-show culture we live in now. It’s a very mixed bag (pun intended, I’m afraid).

    And John himself recognized this sometimes, of course, since he was too smart not to. However he annoys me (and he really can, sometimes), I respect his stubborn refusal to back down and give up. All the more reason to try to do something positive on December 8.

  12. @Nancy – Points taken, on all fronts. And I think that’s where we come in. If the things that used to have meaning, like the peace symbol, have been co-opted, well then the ball’s in our court: What do we do next that will be meaningful? I don’t have a specific answer, but one possible answer might be to try to take them back.

    Specifically, I’m thinking, as a good frinstance, of the right wing’s attempt to claim MLK as their own, their ridiculous claim that they are the true successors to King’s legacy. You dirty hippies are the real racists, they claim, with your “quotas” and reverse discrimination against long-suffering, privileged white males; but WE’RE tying to do what Dr. King wanted – viz., judge people by the content of their character, not their color.

    Isn’t this essentially what Glenn Beck is saying? Doesn’t this claim, on some level, make a convincing soundbyte when divorced from the specifics of what Dr. King advocated?

    But shouldn’t we GET specific and take it, King’s legacy, back? But how?

    Let’s point out what Dr. King actually stood for! As Glenn Greenwald did here.

    You want to claim him as yours, Corporate America? Right-wing America?

    Square YOUR views with what King says in THAT video!

    Can you, Corporate America? Can YOU, reactionary pundits?

    Because I can … we can.

    John Lennon could have.

    Substitute “Afghanistan” or “Iraq” for “Vietnam” – which King surely would do – and just see how reviled you are by reactionary and Corporate America.

    We should risk being thus reviled, just as John risked it.

  13. Avatar Michael wrote:

    It is, of course, standard operating procedure for the right wing to kill a liberal/left leader, then put words in his mouth. Thus MLK changes from someone opposed to capitalism, into an opponent of affirmative action; JFK changes from someone deeply committed to ending the Cold War, into an oversexed hawk. When one actually cares to look, the truth is obvious: none of these guys are who the Right says they are.

    Regarding MLK, it is settled historical fact that King was not killed by James Earl Ray acting alone, but a conspiracy including elements of the US Government (as per the 1999 wrongful death trial of Jowers v King family). As far as the Kennedys are concerned, it’s fairly certain from the documents that have been released since 1995 that reactionary elements in the USG killed them, too.

    I have definite thoughts on Lennon’s death–not that anybody asked–but the take-away from all this is simply: there’s a pattern, here. We cannot locate a better future in the bodies of our leaders. We must do it OURSELVES. To put it another way: the system is very good at co-opting messages, so we have to reinforce ours constantly with personal action. If there’s a peace symbol on your shirt, what does it mean? Whatever you’re doing, however you’re acting.

    Probably the biggest impediment to change is the meme of “consuming for good,” which always strikes me as fucking for celibacy, if you’ll pardon the expression. I think if Lennon had lived, the Eighties would’ve showed him the flaws in his earlier advertising-based approach, and he would’ve recalibrated accordingly. Not to sainthood, but in the same old “trying to figure it out” way that he always did.

    What these people tapped into is available to all of us. We should do it. Please spread the word about the page!

  14. Avatar Nancy wrote:

    Agreed that anyone who believes peace and justice are possible has to start taking back whatever can be taken back, peace symbols et. al. And it’s also true, it seems to me, that Lennon would have spoken out about the whole commodification-of-peace thing, if he’d lived.

    In the end, we all have to get out there and say what we believe, the more specifically the better. (And I’m talking to myself as much as anyone here, you’d better believe it.)

  15. Avatar Sarah wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Sarah, because you’re in the land of the Lennonites (like the Mennonites, but with zippers), I’ll beat everybody to the punch and say Dec. 8th is the day he was shot–which is an even more appropriate day to give to CSGV.

    Glad you liked the post–came from the heart. Thanks for what you’re doing.

  17. Avatar Sarah wrote:

    Thanks, Michael. Apparently my train of thought got a little jumbled. In any case, it’s wonderful that you’re challenging people to make the anniversary of this tragedy into something positive and meaningful.

  18. Avatar Sarah wrote:

    Mike, the John Lennon post is awesome and inspiring.

    Thanks for the shout-out for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence too! I just started working there, and I’m so proud to be a part of waging peace and working for innovative ways to make our communities safe.

    If anyone has any questions about CSGV or wants to get involved, they should let me know! Here is my contact info:

    Sarah Hench
    Director of Development
    Coalition to Stop Gun Violence/Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence
    1424 L Street NW, Suite 2-1
    Washington, DC 20005
    w: (202) 408-0061 x1005
    [email protected]
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/CSGV

  19. Thank you so much, Michael. We’ve been honored to receive support from The Fest for Beatles Fans for years and your blog is another wonderful and pleasant surprise. We are committed to enacting laws to prevent dangerous individuals from gaining easy access to guns in our society – and to John’s beautiful vision of a peaceful, nonviolent world. That those who admire him would think of us means a lot. – Ladd Everitt, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, http://www.csgv.org

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