I hate Tuesdays. Even the sunniest ones have something grim and gray and pitiless about them. And the only thing worse than a Tuesday is a Tuesday morning; I got cold-cocked by a Tuesday morning once, and I'm still getting over it.
It started out great. I woke up to "I Am the Walrus," which they never played on KSHE. Children are superstitious for the same reason soldiers are: you can't control your life, so everything is luck. Being 11 and newly fascinated with The Beatles, waking up to "stupid bloody Tuesday" was a sure sign of a good day to come.
Then I heard why they were playing it. John Lennon was dead.
It's scary to see adults cry, and I saw a lot of that on December 9, 1980. Lennon's murder felt personal, ominous even. Was this how we lived now, with rock stars getting shot? Was our country so full of madness that anyone who took a public stand -- anybody who dared to be real -- became a target? How did we get here? How could our country function under these conditions?
As we've discovered, it can't.
For the first 48 hours after Lennon's death, there was a sense of righteous indignation: We were going to do something, goddammit, to make sure this kind of thing didn't happen again. Fathers coming home from work shouldn't get gunned down by some random fruitcake carrying a cheap pistol. Then, the gun lobby started throwing its weight around, and President-elect Reagan started saying that maybe the solution was everybody carrying cheap pistols, and...that's the way this country has run ever since. Thirty years of nothing but stupid bloody Tuesdays, with the possible exception of the day we elected Obama. And now even he seems determined to remind us that was a Tuesday, too.
It's taken me 30 years, but I've finally figured out what I want to do about this -- to say to Fate or the Devil or Mark David Chapman: yes, of course, you can kill individual human beings, but you can't kill human creativity. You can't kill the best of what people are.
John Lennon made me think, "You know, making things, that looks like a lot of fun." He's a large part of why I'm a writer today. So this Wednesday, December 8, 2010, I'm going to donate the royalties my books earn on Amazon to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Pittance or fortune, I'm sick of waiting for people I elect to do what's right.
And of course I'm just one of the millions whom Lennon affected in this way, who became writers, musicians, artists of every stripe. If you're one of us, I hope you'll check out December8thproject.com. Anyone who's made something with their name on it is welcome to join, and give money from their creations to whomever they feel is making the world better.
This modest little scheme has nothing to do with Yoko, or the Lennon estate. They've done enough already. Nor is it mindless, maudlin celebrity-worship. Quite the reverse.
If you listen to the mainstream media (good luck with that), you're probably convinced that John Lennon's major post-Beatles achievement was making politics safe for celebrities. But if you read what John Lennon actually said, his message was precisely the opposite. Here's an example:
"Make your own dream. That's the Beatles' story, isn't it?...If you want to save Peru, go save Peru. It's quite possible to do anything, but not to put it on the leaders and the parking meters. Don't expect Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or John Lennon or Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ to come and do it for you. You have to do it yourself."
We have to do it ourselves -- and whenever we have, the world has gotten better. So much of how Lennon lived his life (which seemed pretty out there in 1980) has become mainstream: organic food, for example, or meditation, or fathers staying home with the kids. Americans are a better people than they were thirty years ago -- it's just our leaders that suck. America is now a country where a black man can become President...and when that happens, he acts just like Bill Clinton.
If we want to move forward politically, we have to apply the same principles that have put organic carrots in Walmart. We have to act individually to support what we think is right. We can't wait for the perfect leader to gift us with the perfect future. Lennon's message was consistent: Don't give your power away to someone with a microphone, no matter how wonderful they seem to be. We've been down that road, and it doesn't work. Figure out what you believe, and do it yourself.
"If the Beatles or the Sixties had a message, it was to learn to swim. Period. And once you learn to swim, swim. The people who are hung up on the Beatles' and the Sixties' dream missed the whole point when the Beatles' and the Sixties' dream became the point."
So what is the point? Now -- and the future we build together. The best way to remember John Lennon this December 8th is to do something in his name. Support the things he cared about; support the things you care about. It's a Wednesday. Let's make it feel like one.
So check out December8thproject.com. If you'd prefer to honor Lennon in your own way, please do so. The point is to act, positively, as individuals, and thereby render Lennon's murder -- and all political murders -- completely useless. Lennon's death doesn't have to be an ending. It can be the lighting of a fuse.
When her husband died, Yoko Ono said, "John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him." This December 8th, I'll be loving and praying, but I'll be working for what he believed in, too. I hope lots of people do the same, in whatever way feels best. Because 30 years of stupid bloody Tuesdays? I've had enough.