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War Is Over (If You Want It)

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By Peter Bauer
Contributing Editor

Since the day after Halloween my ears have been flooded with holiday music every time I set foot in a mall or shopping center.  You’ve probably heard them too: Kenny G in the main walk ways, Paul McCartney on repeat at Eddie Bauer, techno remixes of  classics blaring from Abercrombie and Fitch. 

I remember my dad getting upset as child whenever John Lennon’s “Happy X-Mas (War is Over)”  would get airplay.  It wasn’t the anti-war message that bothered him, but Yoko Ono’s singing which he likened to the sound of a cat being strangled. 

Ono’s vocal inabilities aside, the story about the song is deeply interesting, and I believe has parallels with today.

“All our society is run by insane people for insane objectives,”  Lennon explains in an interview.  “We can get peace now when we want it now!  The people are unaware.  It’s like they are not educated to realize that they have power.  Everybody is geared for the government to fix everything.  It’s all the government’s fault, but (they don’t realize) we’re the government.”

Lennon argued that in today’s society, advertising is what the governments use, what companies use, and what The Beatles used to get a message across.  Why not use it to advertise against the war?  John McCain echoed the effectiveness of Lennon’s idea at a recent debate when he said that “America did not lose the war in Viet-Et-Nam!  It was American public perception that lost us the war.”

In 1969, Lennon and Ono placed advertisements in 11 major cities world wide with the simple message ‘War is Over If You Want It.”  The goal was clear- tell the people they have a choice between war and peace and try to sell it the same way war is sold on TV. 

This concept is important to consider as the Senate is wrestling with a $516 billion spending bill, including $40 billion to continue funding the War in Iraq in addition to funds that are allocated to Afghanistan. 

For more on John Lennon’s legal battles over his peace activity (he was nearly deported by Nixon), check out The U.S. vs. John Lennon.