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Tue

06

Feb

2007

The U.S. Versus John Lennon
Tuesday, 06 February 2007 14:27

by Jayne Lyn Stahl

If the reaction of the audience tells you anything about the quality of a film, and I think it does, then "The U.S. Versus John Lennon" is, by far, among the best documentaries to come along in a long time.   On Superbowl Sunday, in a small movie theatre in Ojai, a town eighty miles northwest of Los Angeles, on rural main street America that was among the last on its block to stubbornly display Old Glory, as well as the requisite "Bush / Cheney" bumper stickers for years after 9/ll, the disgust with the Iraq war, and the misadventures of the Bush years filled the auditorium; it was palpable,and electrifying.

"Declare Peace," John Lennon's words, some forty years ago, right after the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, still resonate. His and Yoko's bed-in as poignant, and relevant now as it was nearly thirty years ago. You'd think we'd have learned by now, wouldn't you? You'd think, as Lennon was later to say at a press conference, "Time wounds all heals." But, there are some wounds even time can't heal like the gaping one left by the echo of bullets that rang out on a curiously sunny, and spineless December day, twenty six years ago, in front of an apartment building in Manhattan, a horror even the neighborhood rats have yet to process.

Time may not heal, but art will, and if you don't believe that, and if you've yet to see "The U.S. versus John Lennon," a riveting documentary, do yourself a favor and go see it. Especially for those of us who think comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam are exaggerated, or thought so at one time. The rhetoric, the distortion, the recipe for disaster has deja vu written all over it.


If you haven't yet, go see it, take your grandchildren, if only to be amazed at how prescient and way ahead of his time Lennon was; if only to confirm that no, it wasn't the dope, he really said and wrote some astonishing things, if only to hear Jerry Rubin, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Paul Krassner, Gore Vidal, Walter Chronkite, and others; if only to be convinced that we're out of spin cycle, and heading back to soak.

"I'm an artist, not a politician," declared John Lennon, and vision is seldom bullet-proof. Those who choose peace, and unity do so at their own peril as is abundantly clear when listening to retired FBI agents, under Nixon, talk about their ongoing surveillance of Lennon, how his phone was being tapped, all sadly reminiscent of what is going on in America today.

"Patriotism is the great refuge of scoundrels," Gore Vidal says, and Richard Nixon didn't have a patent on being a scoundrel. The exploits of the FBI, in the 1970's, pale by comparison with the current high tech data mining campaigns of the CIA and NSA. Indeed, it is even more true today--when you see a flag, duck.

And, as Yoko simply, and eloquently, tells us, in the end, "They tried to kill John, but they didn't. He's still with us today." He's still with us as we want to howl: "Declare Peace" to another administration bent on destruction. Now, all we need to do is hear those words again, and again, in the hopes that sometime soon, they will sink in.
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a guest said:

0
...
I watched the film and looking at what happened many years ago, which was so dramatic for the times, is not dramatic anymore. How we've grown but not to the capacity of capibility. We're coming into some interesting times!
 
February 06, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
T. Nguyen
I was born in Saigon, South Vietnam and was too young to know about John Lennon until much after I fled to the US as a result of the Viet Communists taking over South VN. I watched this film as part of my extensive research into Vietnam War history, and I found it very painful to watch.

This is because I now know that as John and Yoko were doing their "bed peace," the poet Nguyen Chi Thien was then composing 400 poems, all in his head, in various concentration camps in communist NORTH Vietnam. NCT was first imprisoned in North VN in 1960 for pointing out that Ho Chi Minh's textbook was wrong in stating that the Soviet Union defeated Japan during WWII. In the camps, working on the poems kept him alive as his body wasted to 80 lbs and many others died from starvation. NCT was briefly released in 1977 to help make room for prisoners from South VN (after the US had abandoned South VN, and North VN defeated South VN). In 1979 he regained some strength, wrote down his 400 poems and burst into the British Embassy in Hanoi to entrust his manuscript to a diplomat. He was re-imprisoned as a result, but his poems eventually were published, and Vietnamese refugees worldwide pressured for his release. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Viet Communists released NCT and a number of other political prisoners in exchange for aid. In 1995 NCT came to the US in 1995 under the Humanitarian Operations program, one condition of prez Clinton normalizing relations with Vietnam. NCT spent a total of 27 years in prison because he spoke the truth and because of his poems. (He has been nominated 3 times for a Nobel Prize in Literature.)

I couldn't help but think as I was watching this doc that had John and Yoko known about NCT they would have sang a different tune. But they didn't because free press did not exist in communist North VN and still does not exist in the Socialist Republic of VN today.

Watching this film was also painful for me because in the last several months many peaceful human rights activists in Vietnam, consisting of writers, doctors, lawyers, spriritual leaders, have been convicted of "propaganda against Vietnam" and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. (Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations will confirm this.) Gross human rights violations in VN have been continuous since 1975, such as the imprisonment and now continuing house arrest of Buddhist leaders THICH HUYEN QUANG and THICH QUANG DO (Thich Quang Do is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee).

Viewers of this film are not supposed to recognize from this film that, in a democracy or aspiring democracy, justice has more chances of prevailing. They will only recognize it if they had the frame of reference that in many countries, such as communist Vietnam, justice has no chances of prevailing at all. Ironically, John and Yoko thought they were working for justice for the Vietnamese people but they helped achieve the opposite.
 
August 06, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
...
I was born in Saigon, South Vietnam and was too young to know about John Lennon until much after I fled to the US as a result of the Viet Communists taking over South VN. I watched this film as part of my extensive research into Vietnam War history, and I found it very painful to watch.

This is because I now know that as John and Yoko were doing their "bed peace," the poet Nguyen Chi Thien was then composing 400 poems, all in his head, in various concentration camps in communist NORTH Vietnam. NCT was first imprisoned in North VN in 1960 for pointing out that Ho Chi Minh's textbook was wrong in stating that the Soviet Union defeated Japan during WWII. In the camps, working on the poems kept him alive as his body wasted to 80 lbs and many others died from starvation. NCT was briefly released in 1977 to help make room for prisoners from South VN (after the US had abandoned South VN, and North VN defeated South VN). In 1979 he regained some strength, wrote down his 400 poems and burst into the British Embassy in Hanoi to entrust his manuscript to a diplomat. He was re-imprisoned as a result, but his poems eventually were published, and Vietnamese refugees worldwide pressured for his release. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Viet Communists released NCT and a number of other political prisoners in exchange for aid. In 1995 NCT came to the US in 1995 under the Humanitarian Operations program, one condition of prez Clinton normalizing relations with Vietnam. NCT spent a total of 27 years in prison because he spoke the truth and because of his poems. (He has been nominated 3 times for a Nobel Prize in Literature.)

I couldn't help but think as I was watching this doc that had John and Yoko known about NCT they would have sang a different tune. But they didn't because free press did not exist in communist North VN and still does not exist in the Socialist Republic of VN today.

Watching this film was also painful for me because in the last several months many peaceful human rights activists in Vietnam, consisting of writers, doctors, lawyers, spriritual leaders, have been convicted of "propaganda against Vietnam" and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. (Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations will confirm this.) Gross human rights violations in VN have been continuous since 1975, such as the imprisonment and now continuing house arrest of Buddhist leaders THICH HUYEN QUANG and THICH QUANG DO (Thich Quang Do is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee).
 
August 06, 2007
Votes: +0

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