Stephen Harper and the Legacy of John Lennon

CANNABIS CULTURE – Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the politician attempting to enact the most restrictive marijuana laws Canada has ever seen, has again invoked the memory of singer and pot activist John Lennon – this time by performing a “tribute” to the former Beatle on the 30th anniversary of his death.

In what could be argued as a stroke of propagandistic genius or a confusingly bipolar attempt to win a bump in lackluster poll numbers, Harper took to the stage with a group of musicians at the Conservative Caucus Christmas Party and belted out a set of groovy rock hits of the sixties and seventies to an adoring crowd.

With Harper taking lead vocals, the band played classic hippie-era tunes including “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, “The Seeker” by The Who, “Share the Land” by The Guess Who, and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones – and the Conservative audience went nuts! The white-collar crowd was dancing, singing along, and taking photos as the PM kicked out the jams.

At one point Harper slowed things down and addressed the crowd.

“The guys reminded me that tonight is uh, sort of a sad night”, he said into the microphone hoisted above his Yamaha keyboard. “This is the thirtieth anniversary of the death of probably the most important person in the history of rock. So lets just take a moment to remember before we move on.”

The Prime Minister then played a short piano solo, tapping out a few bars of Lennon’s iconic peace anthem “Imagine”.

“The late, great John Lennon,” he said. “Let’s hear it for John.”

CLICK HERE to watch the video of Harper’s piano solo. CLICK HERE to see the PM’s entire show.

John Lennon was shot dead by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980 just outside the entrance to his apartment building in New York City. Lennon was a politically charged public figure known for his activism almost as much as his music, and he was a staunch opponent of the war against marijuana.

“THE LAW AGAINST MARIJUANA IS IMMORAL IN PRINCIPLE AND UNWORKABLE IN PRACTICE” read a full-page ad in the UK’s Sunday Times paid for by Lennon and the other Beatles in 1967. The ad was just one of many attempts by Lennon and his friends to expose the futility of cannabis prohibition and bring drug culture into the political consciousness of the Western world.

In another famous act of dissension, Lennon wrote and performed a song for imprisoned poet John Sinclair, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for giving two joints to an undercover narc in 1969.

Lennon sings:

It ain’t fair, John Sinclair
In the stir for breathing air
Won’t you care for John Sinclair?
In the stir for breathing air
Let him be, set him free
Let him be like you and me

They gave him ten for two
What else can Judges Columba do?
Gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta,
gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta,
gotta, gotta, gotta, gotta,
gotta, gotta, gotta set him free

Sinclair was released three days after the song was played at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally when the Michigan Supreme Court declared the state pot laws unconstitutional.

If you want to read more about John Lennon’s marijuana activism, check out the article “Was John Lennon Killed for his Pot Activism?” from the Cannabis Culture archives.

Harper’s invocation may have been motivated partly by his supposed love of the Beatles and rock music, but is more likely another ploy to increase poll numbers – a ploy that worked last year when Harper performed the Beatles song “With a Little Help from My Friends” at National Arts Centre Gala in Ottawa and received a 10-point bounce in the polls.

The PM again referenced the legendary peacenick when he sent out a calendar this year featuring a photo where he and his family recreate the famous cross-walking album cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road.

Of course, Harper isn’t the first politician to use his musical abilities to win votes (remember Bill Clinton playing his saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show?), but these attempts to gain popularity are especially distasteful and ironic considering Harper’s plans for Canadian marijuana smokers, who under proposed Conservative legislation Bill S-10 would be subject to mandatory minimums sentences for growing as few as six plants or making pot cookies. S-10 even includes life sentences for non-violent marijuana offenses.

So please Canadians, don’t be fooled. John Lennon was an advocate of peace. Stephen Harper, with his support for destructive occupations overseas and the crack-down on civil liberties at home, stands for the exact opposite: war.

The ideals John Lennon fought for before his death are directly threatened by Harper and his Conservatives, and it’s sad and troubling to see the activist’s legacy co-oped and used for propagandistic purposes.

No matter how loudly Harper shouts “share the land” and other messages of peace into a microphone, Bill S-10 and other harmful efforts against his fellow Canadians speak louder than his borrowed words ever could.

UPDATE: This must be what Haper means by “Share the Land”: the Globe and Mail is reporting on a secret security deal worked out between the Harper government and US authorities designed for “greater information sharing” that is expected to “increase the amount of data exchanged between law enforcement and other government authorities in both countries”:

Under a perimeter deal, Canada and the United States would harmonize rules and practices for screening offshore imports and travellers. They would more closely collaborate on the defence of North America including on immigration, border protection and law enforcement.

After listening to the song “American Woman” by Canadian band The Guess Who, it is evident that “Sharing” the sovereignty of our country with the American Empire is probably not what they had in mind.