View From Lodi, CA: John Lennon, Deportation, and War

[VDARE.com note: If it seems sometimes that VDARE.COM is anti-immigrant, this piece may dispel that impression. We're making an exception for John Lennon, for sentimental reasons: he must have been a Good Immigrant, he came from Lancashire.]

When I read that Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, James Taylor and the Dixie Chicks, among others, will be touring to raise money to help defeat George W. Bush, I took note of the precise game plan.

Starting in Pennsylvania on October 1st, the rockers will travel to North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin and Florida. Audiences in those key states will be able to choose from as many as six daily "Vote for Change" concerts.

The shows are presented and funded by the political interest group, MoveOn.Org

The first thought that occurred to me about Springsteen, et al is that it is a lucky thing for them that they are U.S. citizens and can't be deported.

Deportation is exactly the tactic another unpopular Republican president–Richard Nixon—took against anti-Vietnam War activist John Lennon when the one-time Beatle became a constant critic of the Southeast Asian conflict.

Nixon was probably never much of a Beatles fan. But he was certain to have looked askance at Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono's political activism.

Shortly after Lennon and Ono released their "Two Virgins" album in 1968 that featured a cover with a naked photo of the couple, they began using their celebrity bully pulpit to oppose the Vietnam War.

As the war escalated so did Lennon's protest of it. In 1969, he recorded "Give Peace a Chance," a clear statement of his views on war and peace.

By 1971, Lennon and Ono had moved from London into the historic Dakota apartments in New York. Lennon, who had aligned himself with a radical crowd that included Jerry Rubin and the Chicago Seven, was now agitating on US soil.

When Lennon's album "Imagine" hit number one on the charts in the fall of 1971, Nixon saw that Lennon's popularity and influence was at an apex. Lennon, like the "Vote for Change" performers, wanted to raise money, register new voters and give anti-war rallies at his concerts.

And Nixon understood too that Lennon's message was getting across to the war-weary and divided nation.

Nixon, ever the prescient politician, realized that Lennon and his peace message could be disruptive at the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami Beach.

Working with Attorney General John Mitchell, Republican Senator Strom Thurmond and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, Nixon hatched a plan to deny Lennon's visa renewal application and to ultimately deport him.

Hoover felt that the government had a strong case against Lennon since the singer had been charged in 1968 with "moral turpitude" stemming from an arrest for marijuana possession.

In a classified memo dated February, 1972 Thurmond agreed with Nixon that Lennon was a danger to the Presidents' 1972 reelection campaign. Thurmond wrote "if Lennon's visa is terminated, it would be a strategy counter-measure." He further advised "caution must be taken with regard to the possible alienation of the so-called 18-year-old-vote if Lennon is expelled from the country." (The 1972 election was the first in which 18-year olds could vote.)

Files made public in 1997 under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that Lennon was under constant FBI surveillance from 1971-72.

A 1972 memo from Hoover to his agents ordered them to:

"...promptly initiate discreet efforts to locate subject [Lennon]   and remain aware of his activities and movements. Handle   inquiries only through established sources... Careful attention   should be given to reports that subject is heavy narcotics user   and any information developed in this regard should be furnished   to narcotics authorities and immediately furnished to bureau in   form suitable for dissemination."

Although Lennon was eventually ordered deported, his lawyer Leon Wildes appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals. After four appearances in federal court, Wildes prevailed. The Lennon case had dragged on for five years

Lennon ultimately prevailed. In 1975, both Lennon and Ono became legal United States residents.

By the time Lennon's case concluded, Nixon was no longer president. And after five years of public furor, the INS chief counsel also stepped down. In a statement, the former counselor announced that the Republican Party had spent millions of tax dollars in its failed effort to deport Lennon.   We know what happened to Nixon. What awaits Bush is unclear. The president has not commented directly about "Vote for Change." While traveling with Bush in Iowa, his spokesman Danny Diaz said that Bush feels "the heart and soul of America is found in places like Davenport." [VDARE.com note: and elsewhere.] The inference is that Davenport is good; Hollywood is bad.   We'll soon know. The "Vote for Change Tour" has three performances in Iowa: Dave Matthews in Ames; Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt in Des Moines and James Taylor and the Dixie Chicks in Iowa City. All are scheduled during the first week of October.  

The turn out at those shows should indicate whether Iowa voters have as high opinion of Bush as he claims to have of them.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.