In today’s installment of the Oslo Journal, I have an item on a survivor of the Cambodian holocaust. He talked about the “agrarian utopia” that the Khmer Rouge wanted to create. He said, “You know the John Lennon song ‘Imagine’? ‘Imagine no possessions, no religion’? That’s what it was like in Cambodia.” In my journal, I say how good it was — thrilling, actually — to hear that Lennon song cited negatively. I have always found it one of the most irksome of songs. And I live quite near the Lennon memorial in Central Park, with its holy-ish emblem: “Imagine.”
A number of letters have come in about the song, and I wanted to publish two of them. The first is from a friend of mine – an American who grew up in Communist Czechoslovakia, escaping with her family when she was 16. She writes,
“That John Lennon song always bothered me. It reminded me of the spoiled children of the ‘West.’ They had everything they could possibly want, and they were free. Yet they complained. And, worse, they promoted ideas and regimes that were senselessly destroying other people’s lives.”
The second note offers a different take. A reader from Iowa writes,
“When ‘Imagine’ was new, and I was young, I, of course, took it literally as the way the world should work. Since at least partially growing up (being 57 now), I have come to understand John Lennon as one sarcastic SOB who delighted in demonstrations of his superiority over lesser beings. I am thinking that ‘Imagine’ was meant as a send-up of liberal utopia, an insult hidden in the open.”
Me, I don’t know. Not an expert. But I have friends who are — including one who wrote a book on the Beatles. I might ask him . . .