This Wednesday will mark the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon's assassination. As such, there are numerous tributes and intriguing what-if essays hoping to put the enduring legacy of the renowned musician, artist and free-thinker in context. But there's also at least one Beatles biographer who believes the Lennon has received far too much credit in at least one area: his role as a peace activist. His name is John McMillian and in the Boston Globe he wrote an essay entitled "Re-Imagine" that aims to dispel the notion that the musician was an unabashed "peacenik."
McMillian argues that Lennon was really "was ambivalent about pacifism, and his public enthusiasm for the peace movement was fleeting and capricious." Such words may sound like heresy to modern ears, and McMillian is careful to clarify that Lennon had explicit peaceful inclinations, but that his legacy has been hijacked by "well-intended tributes and vigils" that sometimes "extol a naive style of pacifism."
In fact, in the early years of the Beatles, the band was under strict orders by a "savvy manager" to avoid controversial statements about the Vietnam War. "Lennon may have been annoyed by this restriction, but for the most part, he acquiesced," McMillian notes. Even the peace protests that Lennon staged (the "bed-ins" and "acorns for peace") were "probably" not his own ideas but Yoko Ono's. And in 1972, under pressure of deportation from the Nixon administration, Lennon "abruptly terminated the activist phase of his career" and didn't really return to it even when he received a green card in 1975.