Kage Baker hated arguments. They made her physically ill. Despite our shared (and somewhat eccentric) pan-Celt and Iriquois heritage – and all of those are fractious peoples, let me assure you – Kage did not relish a quarrel. She barely stood for loud discussions. They made her stomach hurt, and she retreated. Consequently,if someone did not like something she said, she rarely tried for further explanation. She didn’t want to win: she just wanted peace.
I am not as lady-like, nor as sensitive, nor as delicate. But I don’t like to fight, either. On the other hand, I do recognize the need to explain myself when I have committed a gaucherie (which I have done a lot of, and so am experienced at). And it appears yesterday’s blog struck some folks as shallow and fannish. Not that anyone said that! My friends are much nicer than that. But I can sometimes read between the lines – even my own – and see where something has been poorly handled.
So allow me to explain why the death of John Lennon mattered to me. It’s not due to late-blooming teen-age hormones. Nor am I unaware that, in the roster of great members of the human race, John was … well, a pop singer. Still, in context, so was Mozart. Nonetheless …
The 1980’s largely sucked. The sheer atmosphere of disaster and death in which we moved every freaking day was overwhelming. Perhaps it’s why we remember specific tragedies, attempting to personalize something in that time when Death seemed to be on every guest list.
As I attempted to explain to someone else, John Lennon’s death was not in the same league as the deaths of John or Robert Kennedy. But I wasn’t trying to say it was. I was trying to describe my own, personal, intimate pain at the death of someone I knew. What made the situation unique was that John was a public person and at the same time just this guy, you know? Therefore millions of people felt that same personal, intimate pain. Therefore it was – different.
It is sacriligious and horrifying when a man like Ghandi is assassinated. It is shocking when someone shoots a President of the United States (although it seems to be becoming a common job risk). There is always a suicide bomber, a disgruntled government employee, a man with a rifle and a lunch of fried chicken in a tower somewhere, waiting for just the right profile to come into his rifle scope. And, God help us, there are always wars and plagues. It’s just that Americans didn’t used to notice them as much. We do now, though.
It’s true that the death of any man diminishes us all. I think, though, that most of the time we don’t notice it any more than we notice the millions of our own body cells that die every day. You notice the wound that bleeds. You remember the freak accident, the unexpected tumor, the assault by the statistically unlikely maniac. The plagues and genocides … are so huge it takes a while to sink in on most of us. But when it does, we cannot UN-see what we have seen, and that wound, too, becomes permanent.
The deliberate murder of a poet, a singer, a bard – is a freak occurrence. Once kings might silence a smart-ass singer – back when the guy with a lute was the Main Stream Media. But who, in the latter half of the 20th century, assassinates a rock and roll singer? One who might even have already embarked on Washed Up?
It’s like shooting a mockingbird, Dear Readers.
He was just this guy – walking home with his wife on a winter evening, remnants of his day’s work in his pocket, his kid asleep in the apartment upstairs. But even as just that, he was a marvel of humanity, like any guy; a microcosm, a pair of eyes that looked at the stars and the mucky depths of his own soul, and saw the similarities there. But he sang about them, loud enough for the world to hear.
Maybe there are a million men with eyes and minds and voices like that, and John Lennon was just the one whose voice rang out. The point of his life is that it did. The point of his death is that a common monster stepped out of the shadows and killed him for it. That can happen to any of us. That’s what underlies the horror.
And, I loved him. That’s my hang-up, not yours, Dear Readers. Just ignore it if it bothers you. I’m not claiming that his death was pivotal to the 20th century, or that he was a saint or a world leader or even an especially slick public speaker (“a man appeared on a flaming pie and said ‘You are Beatles with an A’? ” I ask you …). I’m just saying that 30 years ago yesterday a man died unnecessarily and it hurt the entire world and it still hurts a few hearts with good memories. That’s all.
But a thousand people are dying to day. And it hurts the world, and it always will: more than the death of a Ghandi or a Sadat or a Kennedy.Maybe we ought to recall a few more of those kinds of deaths, you know? And not decide whose life deserves to be memorialized, because – really – they all do.
But I am still sorry I came off so clumsy and shallow. I’ll try for better tomorrow.
Don’t you change a thing, Kathleen. It was your view, and your point of view. If someone doesn’t like it, they should go read other blogs.
There are ways, culturally, in which I think losing John Lennon so young was worse than losing some of those political and national figures. Lennon was hugely talented, and fortunate, and a hard worker, but at bottom – as you say – he was like us. That always matters, and it’s why he heard us so well and we heard him so well.
The 80s were often mean and nasty. Got better for me toward the end, but it was a tough haul.
Oh, no changes. But I was clumsy, and it was rather more mindlessly fannish than I intended. And when good people point out that you may have stepped in something, it is only polite to at look at the bottom of your shoe!
My opinion? It was a good and valid piece. Art doesn’t apologize. You will never please everyone. We write for ourselves, express our own truth, pain and joy. If others find things they can carry with them, all the better.
No, no, I meant this! Stop defending me! I really had something else to say!
I can’t understand why anyone would rag on you for your opinion….I felt that you expressed my own sadness quite eloquently. Thank you (for this one and MANY other ‘columns’…you’re making the loss of Kage much easier).
A fan of both K. Baker writers, -Brad
Thank you, Mr. Campbell. I find doing this blog helps me a lot, and I am glad some of that is passing on to my readers.
No one is ragging me, though. (Aside from one odd lady long ago in the beginning of this. She left.) No, some friends simply gently pointed something out to me, and I realized (to my HORRah, as Mama used to say) that I had missed my own point. So I took the occasion to remount my soapbox and pontificate some more. Me and Bre’r Rabbit – please don’t throw me in the briar patch!
Mindlessly fannish? No, no, I think you’re heartfully fannish. Someone showed you something beautiful, and in some way you loved him and still miss him.
After all, I’ve spent many nights googling for every scrap of info on a certain fantasy writer…and reading every word of a blog about her life…and searching Youtube for any video of a certain inn (Found one, too! Very dark, alas…)
It wasn’t because she was “important”, but because she showed me something beautiful…which is important, too…you understand!
You found a video of the Green Man, Valerie? Where? In what state of chaos and insanity? For that matter, in what YEAR? (We drift a lot …)
That was wonderful!
Kathleen: even when you think, feel, or suspect that you are ‘bumbling,’ you are still very, very eloquent. I don’t know (nor need to know) what point you intended to make, aside from the ones I read. The words you wrote ‘sang’ to me, and I enjoyed ‘the song,’ moved once again by the death of a man I had never met, but felt totally intwined with.
Keep on writing, Gal. More flows from your blog than just digital ink.
I sincerely hope this post wasn’t in response to my comment on your previous one. I was merely trying, in my overly-verbose way, to relate to your pain on some level–certainly not to minimize it. As many others have said, Lennon was a person’s person. That I can understand and respect, even if, through lack of exposure on my part, he wasn’t *my* person’s person. As Mr. Barclay pointed out, the 80’s were pretty rough. I think my brain had chosen instead to focus on the fun n’ crazy times that I remember, and when the interviewer asked me Wednesday about Lennon, the other side of the 80’s reared its ugly head–and I wasn’t prepared for it.
I hope you are aware of my deepest respect for you, in all aspects of Life. Your posts on Ritual struck a deep cord in me, primarily because kbco has become part of *my* ritual now. I know I have said it, but probably not nearly enough: Thank you for your posts.
David – I just thought of something else to say, that’s all. Really. That happens far too often with me! Do not worry.