If you are of a certain age you remember December 8, 1980. You remember where you were, what you were doing, and how you heard the horrific news – John Lennon had been shot outside his apartment building in Manhattan. As this December 8 is the 35th anniversary of that event, I don’t know if I still can process it or make sense of it let alone believe it even happened. Unfortunately, we all know that it did occur and the loss for many people still causes tears – I know that it does for me.
The man who gave us “All You Need Is Love” and some of the greatest anthems for peace and understanding – the songs “Imagine,” “War Is Over,” and “Give Peace a Chance,” died a most violent death. In the grand scheme of things it was not poetic or ironic or tragic – it simply was the matter of a deranged nutcase who snuffed out a precious life.
In keeping with my practice of never mentioning the names of killers and terrorists, I won’t do so here because in essence it really doesn’t matter. He doesn’t matter. The man he killed did matter – and as with all great people who die too soon, especially from violence (John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy), it really is never about the despicable scum who took them from us. It is always about those extraordinary individuals and how they lived and the things for which they stood.
I recall watching Monday Night Football with friends in a local NYC bar, enjoying the fact that I had no classes the following morning. The teams that were playing are long forgotten now, but I recall the news flash coming across the screen. Once what was happening registered with everyone in the bar the place fell silent – you could hear a pin drop as they say. Afterwards we viewed the news incredulously and even doubted the reporting – it must have been some mistake. Of course, I went home and continued watching Nightline and realized the worst and reality sunk in: John was gone!
The headlines the next day confirmed things for me as I awoke and hoped it all was just a horrific dream. As the days passed, people expressed their love for John in ways that overwhelmed the city and the world. The gatherings of people in New York City (and all across the planet) who lit candles, sang John’s songs, carried posters, signs, and effigies honoring John were emotional and cathartic. We all had to do something – anything – and it seemed the more communal the better. Nothing was going to bring John back, but damn if we were going to let him go gently but rather with bursts of light, music, and love.
All these years later the world is a bigger mess than ever. John’s words, so eloquent and meaningful, have fallen on deaf ears. When he sang “War is Over” there was, of course, a caveat – “if you want it.” This was like slapping the leaders of the world in the face and saying, “We can make this happen but you have to want to do it.” Sadly, 35 years later the world is in worse shape than when John left us.
In “Give Peace a Chance” John mocks all the talk about the news of the day – he should see what “news” has become in 2015. However, these words still resonate: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” Again they have been largely ignored by everyone at the expense of our daily machinations to out build one another’s weapons and technologies for mass destruction. We create scenarios that foment fear, anger, and the rise of forces that are so pernicious that they attack places like restaurants and theaters where innocents are slaughtered. “Peace” isn’t being given any consideration at all let alone a chance.
In the incredibly beautiful song “Imagine” John pulls no punches as he lets us know the source of most of the world’s problems:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
Yes, John was a dreamer and certainly not the only one as he writes, but the problems we have today are definitely connected to the warping of religion for the sake of war, and how are we ever going to reach a place of peace as long as boundaries and faith matter more than the lives of the people living and breathing on the planet?
John died 35 years ago this December 8, but it feels like yesterday in my mind. I remember the pain of his initial loss, and all these years later, there is no closure for any of us. His widow Yoko still fights the good fight and goes about her quest to strive for peace, and yet things continue to spiral out of control. The sense that we are always “at war” is overwhelming and frightening – our children born since 9/11 have never known a world without war, and there seems to be no end in sight.
Still, John’s message of peace and love will never go away as long as there are those of us who believe that the world can be a better place and can be more than what it is now – a place of tumult and fear. John wanted peace for all and we must embrace that too, and we must realize that we are all in the same boat on this planet, and we are stuck in the middle of a deep ocean with it springing too many leaks. If we don’t stop, bail out the water, and repair the damage, we are all doomed to sink and take everything down with us. If that isn’t incentive to give peace a chance, I don’t know what is.
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B003Y8YXFS]