11/28/2009

A Gleeful Guilty Pleasure

I’ll admit it. Glee has become one of my guilty pleasures. I’m not a avid fan, but I do record it on DVR and usually watch it in the days following the original airing. To be honest, I only began watching it because of Jane Lynch whom I find very funny.

However, despite the High School Musical aspects and the parade of mediocre “mash ups” that pepper the episodes, their feature song is normally very good and often emotional. This past week was no different and their rendition of “Imagine” by John Lennon with a deaf school chorus (despite the obvious theatrics of that gimmick) actually moved me to tears.

For me, it was not the cheap theatrics of the moment but rather hearing this beautiful, yet simple declaration of a peaceful worldview again.


I can remember the backlash in my part of the world (Bible Belt South) over the lyrics that seemed to espouse atheism and anti-nationalism – two bedrock features of the Southern psyche. Interestingly, that continues today. In 2001 Clear Channel Broadcasting, that mega-corp media monster with Right Wing tendencies banned "Imagine" as "inappropriate" following the attacks of Sept. 11 and the run-up to Bush's invasions.

I can also remember the quick rebuttal by spirituality apologists who tried to explain what Lennon “meant” and how it was not an endorsement of atheism but an endorsement of non-religious Christianity.

Honestly, I did not care for the arguments because “Imagine” immediately spoke to me. As a young person just coming to terms with being gay I was well aware of the damage religion could do. As a young person my father was out of work after 50 years working his fingers to the bone in a cotton mill because production had been moved for a higher profit margin (part of Reagan’s laissez-faire approach to business). The idea of a world where people acted for the greater good instead of greed appealed to me. In short, “Imagine” reflected my own burgeoning sense of politics and life while at the same time refining those embryonic thoughts in its short, simple and powerful lyrics.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

What a great idea this seemed to a kid growing up in the deep South and faced with religions that put more stock in a Heaven achieved after death than living every day to its fullest, caring for each other and celebrating love in all its glorious forms. Imagine no hell below us. Coming from a culture where hell was used as the continual stick to insure conformity to dogma it was a liberating idea. Hell had always seemed a strange and illogical idea to me and one that preachers were hard pressed to explain without resorting to illogical statements. Do as I say and you have Heaven, do as you should (as a human being and compassionate, loving person) and you have Hell. This seemed to be the prevailing theology of the Protestant fundamentalist South.

How wonderful that there was neither and we simply could live our lives guided by love and compassion instead of reward and punishment. What a positively mature and adult idea!

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

I had absorbed through a weird biological osmosis my father’s view that wars were not something to be celebrated but something of which we should be ashamed of as failings. He was a WWII veteran and came back from that war with the belief that war resulted not from the best of our humanity but from failing to live up to our humanity. I’m sure he probably wouldn’t have explained it that way as he was a simple and quiet man. But, I remember his opposition to Vietnam and I distinctly remember as a very small child his proclamation that if either of my older brothers were drafted he would take them to Canada before allowing them to serve. Imagine that we did away with borders and distinctions that give us reasons to kill each other. Imagine no religion from which so much evil has been born and continues to be born today, be it foreign terrorism, domestic terrorism (yes, I’m thinking of you anti-abortion folks), gay bashings, breaking up families in the name of “God’s law” (Maggie Gallagher, Catholics, etc.) Imagine if we no longer held onto these childish ideas of a “God” who hated the same people we did and instead we had to accept everyone as they were, as our brothers and sisters. Then we could all live our lives in peace.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

I can remember hearing this and I can remember the screams of “Communist” from the masses. But really, for much of our existence we humans lived like this. We shared among our communities and took care of each other. When we began to get away from those ideas we became somewhat less human – we lost our compassion. How often over the past months during the healthcare debate have we heard the “Teabaggers” screaming that only certain people should have access to healthcare. How many times have I heard people I know (including liberals) ranting about having to “pay for someone else’s health problems.” We have lost our compassion. During the Reagan 80’s this was evident in the explosion of homeless people. It continues today when in the richest nation on Earth we still have children who go to bed hungry because some millionaires in Congress or state legislatures are worried they might have to give up their extra Lexus or BMW so poor children can have a place to sleep or food to eat. Imagine all the people sharing all the world. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world if we could all live our lives to their potential? How incredible if we stopped this madness of Social Darwinism once and for all and let everyone do those things for society they most enjoyed doing? Imagine.

I think from now on when someone asks me what my religious or political views are I’ll just say “Listen to Imagine.”

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