US vs John Lennon


Editorial Review –

In retrospect, it seems absurd that the United States government felt so threatened by the presence of John Lennon that they tried to have him deported. But that’s what happened, as chronicled in directors David Leaf and John Scheinfeld’s The U.S. vs. John Lennon. The film starts slowly, with a familiar look at the former Beatle’s troubled childhood, his outspokenness as one of the Fabs (“We’re more popular now than Jesus Christ,” etc.), and his eventual hookup with Yoko Ono, paralleled by the growth of political protest in ’60s America, particularly against the Vietnam War. John and Yoko went on to stage their own peaceful demonstrations, like the Canadian “bed-ins,” but these were largely harmless media stunts. It was when the Lennons moved to New York in the early ’70s and took a more active role in the anti-war movement, making friends with radicals like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Black Panther Party founder Bobby Seale, that the government got interested–and paranoid–and men like President Richard Nixon, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and right-wing Sen. Strom Thurmond began actively looking for ways to silence him (it was Thurmond who came up with the deportation idea). That’s also when the film picks up. An array of talking heads weighs in, ranging from Ono and others sympathetic to Lennon’s plight (Walter Cronkite, Sen. George McGovern, even Geraldo Rivera) to those on the other side, including Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy. Though The U.S. vs. John Lennon is hardly impartial, it’s safe to say that although Lennon was more an idealist than an activist, he was an influential celebrity whom Nixon viewed as a potential nuisance in an election year. And even once Nixon had won the ’72 presidential race, the Immigration and Naturalization Service refused to drop its case. Why? “Anybody who sings about love, and harmony, and life, is dangerous to somebody who sings about death,” says author Gore Vidal. “Lennon… was a born enemy of the U.S. He was everything they hated.” For music fans, Lennon’s solo recordings provide the soundtrack. The DVD also contains considerable additional documentary footage. –Sam Graham


One thought on “US vs John Lennon

  1. I must say, I was a little unnerved that our modern day activists are nothing like they were in Lennon’s time. The hippies too…now they only recycle and braid their hair (please take no offense to this, I am exagerating—if you are a self-proclaimed hippie reading this). But I guess I cannot complain because I do not even have a negative Bush sticker on my car. At any rate, I kept thinking about what is going on now in our time with our war…it is just sick. Sick Sick Sick. Is this war right now nothing compared to Viet Nam? I know we are not in a draft and that has a multitude to do with it, but heck.

    this site will show you how many innocent lives we have taken recently.

    I must end this post soon b/c I am liable to rant and rant on and on which I feel I already have. At any rate, our US casualties, remember those do not include civilian contractors, journalists and so on. Not even the Afgan conflict or anything related…may not even include friendly fire, who knows?

    I also had no idea the FBI got so scared of peace loving hippies.

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