We're still watching the Beatles Anthology around here, and last night's installment covered the period leading up to their last concert, at Candlestick Park in 1966. Turns out a major factor contributing to their decision to stop performing in public, besides the screaming which made it impossible to hear themselves play, was that a growing volume of hate from right wing extremists was being directed at them, including death threats. Christian fundamentalists, conservative politicos, even the Klu Klux Klan threatened the lives and livelihood of the four musicians.
We tried explaining to our eleven year old what a right wing extremist was and why anyone would want to kill four young men who made lovely music for a living. We told him that the Beatles represented something new and different and that some people are terrified of anything different from what they know or who they are. When he saw the KKK guy in his get-up in one scene, burning Beatle albums and grimly suggesting something deadly to come, I added: "It's a kind of craziness." Our son responded: "Obviously."
In talking about it later, I realized that it was also the "light" that shone from The Beatles that made those filled with hate and fear want to destroy them. Those who live in the dark are frightened of the light shining upon them. If you've lived in a cave for decades and someone comes in with a bright lantern, it terrifies you, hurts you, and your first response is to try to put it out. To kill it. It's why every giver of light from Jesus to Gandhi to Martin Luther King to Jack and Bobby... to John Lennon... was snuffed out. It's why so many want to kill Barack Obama, now. They all talked and talk about love and oneness and peace, and transcending differences.
Think about it.
The Beatles music wasn't political, nor were their songs ever labeled as "protest songs," like their contemporaries, Bob Dylan or Joan Baez. Even John's song, "Revolution," was against hate and ego, be it on the left ("If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.") or right ("You tell me it's the institution, well, you know, you better free your mind instead.") .
A couple of weeks ago, in my blog post about being a "disgruntled curmudgeon," I noted the fact that right wing leaders never seemed to get assassinated when I was growing up in the 1960's, only the progressive leaders got murdered. Now, I understand how that makes sense. I know many people who sincerely hate the Dick Cheney's and Rush Limbaugh's of the world, who legitimately hated George W. Bush for the extreme damage he inflicted on our country, etc. But I don't know any of those "haters" who would have systematically figured out a way to murder those guys. Why not? Because you can't kill for peace and love and enlightenment. You can only die for it. Right wing extremism isn't really about anything forward-moving. It isn't about making progress, growing, learning, and it certainly isn't about peace and love. Right wing extremism, in and of itself, is about hate for hate's sake. Killing, therefore, is an integral part of it.
The Beatles mostly wrote and sang about love or matters of higher consciousness. Love and higher consciousness. Just like every great spiritual, social, political or cultural leader did. But you see, that is the most radical message of all, isn't it. That is the most threatening. Always has been. Peace and love.
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!