Good morning, it's Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, the day the week when I reprise an instructive or inspirational quotation. Today's comes from John Lennon, who would have turned 80 years old today. He was born on this date in 1940 at Liverpool Maternity Hospital when Britain was withstanding "The Blitz" -- the sustained air war by the Luftwaffe that would take the lives of 4,000 civilians in Liverpool alone by war's end. He died 40 years later in New York City, a victim of senseless violence.
His full name was John Winston Lennon, after one of his grandfathers and the British statesman steering the ship of state in its fight for survival against the Third Reich. In postwar England, John grew up to be a pacifist who wrote and sang songs lamenting war. One of them, "Imagine," stages periodic comebacks, and is doing so these days. Millions of people love that song -- I used to be one of them, but today the lyrics strike me as somewhat at odds with the more iconoclastic opening to the 1969 song "Give Peace a Chance."
"Imagine" may be a hopeful-sounding hymn, but societies proclaiming an end to God and country -- not to mention a functioning economy -- turn out in real life to offer precious little hope. Instead of Utopia, they tend to produce poverty, corruption, and gulags. Would John Lennon have come to that same conclusion? We have no way of knowing, as he was cut down in the prime of life in his adopted country, a nation that still hasn't figured out how to keep firearms out of the hands of murderous lunatics. One thing about Lennon, however: He was always growing and always did his own thinking, as he talked about nonviolence most of his life.
In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged two "Bed-Ins for Peace." Styled after the sit-ins of the 1950s and early1960s, and supplemented with the couple's famed passion for love -- and for each other -- these sessions were filmed and recorded and much-discussed at the time. John and Yoko gave interviews while doing them, and although Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. might have raised eyebrows, the counter-culture backdrop was part of their message.
At the Bed-In in Montreal, John said the following:
"When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system's game. The establishment will irritate you -- pull your beard, flick your face -- to make you fight. Because once they've got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don't know how to handle is nonviolence and humor."
And that's your quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.