Monday, January 17, 2011

Rock Movies I Love: The U. S. Vs. John Lennon


In the wake of the Tuscon tragedy and to commemorate the King holiday, I feel compelled to shine a light on the brilliant rock documentary The U.S. Vs. John Lennon. This movie is not a rock doc in the traditional The-Song-Remains-The-Same-This-Is-It sense. It documents through extensively researched archival footage and interviews with his musical and political contemporaries how one of the most respected and beloved musician-humanitarians of the latter twentieth century was harassed, persecuted and killed in the country he affectionately considered his adopted homeland. The film does an extraordinary job in recreating the violent generational conflicts of the time as crystallized by the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and the riots that marred the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. It is this violence, as the movie notes, that Lennon protested against through his music and acts of vocal but non-violent dissent. Unfortunately, it was these acts of non-violent protest that caught the attention and ire of the Nixon Administration and J. Edgar Hoover's F.B.I., which kept him under surveillance and a file on his activities. The U.S. government's harassment of Lennon culminated in his four-year fight against deportation by the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization. The film chronicles Lennon's exhaustive but victorious fight that resulted in his getting his green card, which allowed him to stay in the United States and start a family with his wife Yoko Ono. Sadly, three years later Lennon would be killed by a madman's gun in the country he loved. Lennon, like MLK, was a champion of social change through intelligent, non-violent means despite his violent death. To quote King, Lennon was a "drum major for peace." Viewing The U.S. Vs. John Lennon is a wonderful way to honor the courageous spirit of Lennon and King. Moreover, I hope that this movie does for you what it did for me. It amplifies the message that violence, especially gun violence, never solves problems and peace is needed now more than ever. Peace and love! :-)

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