On Tuesday, Feb. 20. three West Chester University professors discussed the current documentary, “The U.S. vs. John Lennon,” and how that story relates to the current events involving the war in Iraq. Charles Bauerlein, journalism professor of the English Department, Dr. Timothy Ray of the English Department and Dr. Julian Onderdonk of the Music Department sat on a panel in Sykes Theater as part of SSI’s Contemporary Issues Organization.
The basis of the film is that Lennon was a leading figure in the counter culture revolution and because of this, he came into conflict with the Nixon administration.
“Lennon believed his phones were being tapped and we are seeing a dj vu sense of this today,” Ray said. Lennon epitomizes the counter cultural peace movement, according to Ray.
These same issues are happening today according to Ray. A man stated that Hussein was the wrong one executed, implying President Bush should be executed, and the Secret Service soon visited him.
“When you speak out you have repercussions,” Ray stated.
High-ranking officials closely monitored Lennon’s activities and he was placed on an enemies list. Today, there “probably is an enemies list; it might include people in the Senate,” Bauerlein said.
“What they are doing is against the law, but the federal government has deep pockets,” he said.
This is “a nation of contradictions,” Ray said. We have the first amendment, but when people like Lennon speak out against the government they find themselves in trouble.
“Free is not exactly free.there is a price,” Ray said.
Onderdonk cited the Dixie Chicks, a country music group, as an example of the above. They expressed their disappointment with the President and received a huge backlash from it.
Young people today “would be more compelled to go down and march on Washington” if the draft was in effect said Bauerlein. No one from this generation has come forward as a voice for his or her generation.
The people speaking out are the same ones who protested Vietnam, he said. Onderdunk believes that Lennon’s activism comes from his music.
“Rebelliousness was always there in his music,” he said.
The music Lennon wrote in the 70s was very bluesy and rough edged, which was a change for him. Bob Dylan, who was also known for the political statements he made in his songs, influenced this evolution said Onderdonk.
Where Dylan was always very reluctant to become a voice for his generation, Lennon reveled in it and used his fame to get his opinion out to the world. He did this not only through his music, but also stunts like his bed-in for peace, where he and Yoko Ono stayed in bed for a week to promote peace.
“Lennon very candidly used his celebrity to get his ideas out there,” Bauerlein said. “He became threatening to the Nixon administration because of acts like this.