Column: Working class hero

By Eric Naing

When the best you have for pop culture role models are Ted Nugent, Ronald Reagan and Toby Keith, you know your ideology is terminally uncool. In an attempt to attract the MTV generation, conservatives are using the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s death to claim the former Beatle as one of their own.

On the conservative National Review Online, contributor Ned Rice wrote a piece that should forever be used to illustrate the term “grasping at straws.” He begins with the obligatory “proof of Beatles geek cred” that must prelude every single essay about the legendary band. But after his brief hello, Rice quickly says goodbye to logic.

In trying to figure out Lennon’s politics, Rice wonders how someone born in Liverpool amidst an air attack by Hitler could write “All You Need Is Love.” He writes, “Love’s all well and good, John, you almost wanted to tell him, but there’s really no substitute for a few 50 MM anti-aircraft guns and some R.A.F. support when the Germans are raining death on your city.” Of course, it never crosses Rice’s mind that it is precisely this type of horror that caused Lennon to reject war and urge people to give peace a chance.

Rice then points to Lennon’s embrace of capitalism, his rejection of Maoism in the song “Revolution 1,” his acceptance of a spiritual higher power and his desire to be a citizen of the United States as “points on which John Lennon and the Republican National Committee were, and remain, in complete agreement.” Rice concludes that Lennon “was a far cry from the garden variety Sixties’ leftist he’s so often thought to be.”

Rice is not the only one engaging in this twisted logic. The Wall Street Journal’s Web site also points to a blogger called “The Solid Surfer,” who boldly looks into a future that never was and proclaims, “I see Lennon becoming a patriotic, pro-America Republican.”

Like Rice, Solid Surfer also attempts to claim Lennon was not “a by-the-numbers leftist” and goes so far as to say that has he not been shot, Lennon “would have become a card-carrying Republican and voted for President Bush in the 2004 election.” And in a bit of wishful thinking, believes that Lennon’s “latest song would have even been a cover of ‘God Bless The USA.'”

It is important to note the rhetoric used in both essays. Rice says Lennon was not a “garden variety Sixties’ leftist” while the Surfer similarly concludes that Lennon was not a not “a by-the-numbers leftist.” These pop culture scavengers see all liberals as pot-smoking, Communist, flower power peaceniks. Just because John Lennon does not fit the cartoonish image of a liberal that conservatives have made up does not mean he was a budding conservative. By their definition, almost everyone on Earth should be a conservative.

But if conservatives really wanted to claim Lennon as one of their own, they could have gone much farther. For example, it could reasonably be assumed that when The Beatles sang “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time (couldn’t get any worse)” that they were referring to the military operations in Iraq. Or maybe that “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” is a damning indictment of the Assault Weapons Ban. Or that Lennon’s song “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” is a bold celebration of Bill O’Reilly’s victory over the ACLU in the “War on Christmas.” Or that “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” is a song written from Vice President Cheney’s perspective on the White House Indictment scandal.

When it comes to John Lennon’s life, conservatives need to let it be. Lennon’s legacy is one of idealism and peace. No matter how many logical loopholes one jumps though, it simply cannot be argued that John Lennon would have supported the Iraq War and the modern conservative agenda.

And if the right wing really wants to make conservatism cooler, I suggest using more snowboarding imagery, or possibly using the letter “X” more. Imagine Dennis Hastert pulling off a method air on his board while shouting “Republicanism to the Xtreme!”

Now, that’s cool.

Eric Naing is a senior in LAS. He will be returning as a columnist in the Spring semester of 2006. He can be reached at [email protected]