10 December 2010

Ann Woolner on the Indecency of the Culture War

Jim Morrison Memorial in Berlin-Baumschulen
photo by Jürgen Schuschkeweg
What’s this I hear about Jim Morrison being posthumously pardoned by the Florida clemency board, at the behest of Florida Governor Charlie Crist? It’s been 40 years since Morrison was convicted of two misdemeanors, indecent exposure and open profanity, stemming from his drunken antics on a stage in Miami on 1 March 1969. When he died at the tender age of 27, his case was pending appeal. So the point would be moot, at least to those who act like they are but in reality are not actually interested in justice.


Ann Woolner wrote a brilliant opinion piece for Bloomberg, titled, Jim Morrison Freed of Indecent Act Against Him, which outlines the reasons that this posthumous pardon is important, with the kicker coming at the end:

Miami was supposed to have been the opener of a 20-concert tour for the Doors, but city after city cancelled. Radio stations stopped playing their records, at least for a while. Morrison’s relationships with other band members soured.

For Morrison and for the Doors, the conviction was the beginning of their end.

Yesterday’s action pardons Morrison for what he may or may not have done without drawing a conclusion.

It doesn’t pardon those people who, in their drive for decency, accomplished an indecent act.
Yes, that’s right. This woman, who is an expert in law and justice, is saying that the only actual “indecent acts” involved in the whole incident were those of conservative activists who saw Jim Morrison and the Doors as a threat to society and of the politicians who pushed for a grand jury investigation into what the head of the Greater Miami Crime Commission called “a conspiracy to corrupt the morals of our youth” to be convened, even though there was no such thing as a criminal statute against the moral corruption of the youth.

Ann Woolner is not afraid to call this conviction what it was, nor does she shy away from pointing out that the culture war was initiated by conservatives who, forty years later, are in denial that they were the ones who initiated it out of fear of poets and musicians and the real freedom that they expressed, and that it has been they who have, time and time again, acted undemocratically, unjustly, indecently, and hypocritically in their pursuit of imposing their version of what we should all take “happiness” to be on the rest of us.

Allow me give another illustration of this point from my book, No Stranger To Strange Lands. I was talking about the 2008 Grammy Awards Ceremony, which gave special recognition to the musical contributions of The Beatles, and also, the soundtrack remix album, Love, won Grammys in two catagories:

The Grammy Awards Ceremony also honored that band from across the pond, the Beatles. Their music was revolutionary when they produced it, and is maturing beautifully as time passes by. There is just something indescribable about that music. The more I listen, the more I hear. The way they expanded their own musical horizons, their ability to move through chord progressions that are innovative and so expressive, their play with language, starting out with their silly and very endearing love songs, getting into some deep meaningful messages of Love and Peace, other times exploring how the sounds of the words create kaleidoscopes of images and ideas. This amazing group of guys is a study in synergy, and their music has re-patterned more than a few minds to grok the power of music as a transformational force.

I love to watch the DVD of Paul McCartney In Red Square, because it shows interviews with Russian folks, including Mr. Putin himself, who claim that the Beatles helped to open up the minds of the Russian people living under the rule of the Soviets and had a large part in driving their movement to change the system from the inside out. The music of the Beatles was not officially illegal, but was strictly frowned upon by Party leaders as Western Propaganda and not sold in stores anywhere in the Soviet Union. However, young people heard the music on Radio Luxembourg, and albums were smuggled into the country and purchased on the black market, becoming wildly popular. One person interviewed in the movie describes how, at parties, everyone would discuss who they thought was who in a photo of the band from a smuggled record sleeve, because they had no other information about them. The Beatles music became deeply treasured as a connection to the outside world, where this huge Phenomenon of Freedom was taking place. The Soviets needed to practice censorship in order to maintain control, but this spreading of Freedom was beyond their control, thus affecting the very superstructure of Soviet society by opening people’s hearts to possibilities other than the unfulfilled promises of the Communist system. It was the Power of Music that brought the Soviets down, and what the Beatles did was sublime. They created their music, which was successful because it resonated with people on many different levels, and they spread their message of Love and Freedom in a way that could not be stopped. They did not set out to bring down Soviet Communism. They were never political. They were very talented songwriters, and super cute to boot, singing their silly love songs and exploring musical horizons, and when the youths in Russia heard this message, even when they could not understand all the words, they chose to stop ceding their personal power – their freedom – to their authoritative government, and without any violence, from within, Communism fell. So Peace and Love and Freedom were able to challenge the forces of greed and power that had their stranglehold on Russia without directly confronting them as an adversary. Love didn’t conquer, she came in through the bathroom window.

So it was the Beatles who ended Soviet Communism in Russia, not Ronald Reagan. The Beatles and Rock ‘n’ Roll and Hippie Love and open-mindedness, all the things that The Establishment in our own country doesn’t like, all the things that Ronald Reagan built his political career opposing, as, he was an outspoken supporter of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI’s attempts to silence dissent at UC Berkeley, voicing approval for arresting the Free Speech Movement protesters, then running for governor of the state of California on a platform of ridding Berkeley of the “beatniks, radicals and filthy speech advocates” who he saw as shameful to the university, then as the new governor, clashing with Vietnam War protesters by utilizing the FBI, turning the board of regents into a political circus, and, in the People’s Park incident, placing the city of San Francisco under martial law and sending in riot police and helicopters spraying teargas. The Phenomenon of Freedom prevailed in Russia over authoritarianism and threat of martial force, a point that Conservatives completely miss when they are spouting off about “Freedom” and “Liberty” while advocating authoritarianism and the need for martial force. By seeing Peace and Love and Freedom not as an opposing force, but as a Phenomenon, we can unleash its power to undermine those actors who that want to divide the world into opposing forces, who want to perpetuate war and aggression, who purposefully made up an “enemy,” the Soviets, to be much more militarily capable than they really were, so that they could oppress opposition to their cultural causes, win elections by fear mongering, use military strength to push forward their undemocratic Capitalist agenda in the form of a non-declared war called the Cold War, and so that their buddies in the weapons manufacturing business could continue to sell the government their “Peacemaker” warheads and that crazed space-based missile system that Ronald Reagan was so fond of. Was it really such a surprise to the government of the United States, whose Central Intelligence Agency was led by Papa Bush, by the way, when the big bad Soviet Union collapsed? It certainly made Star Wars a hard sell when it did. But no worries, mate, we would find ourselves another enemy to point our ever-so-profitable weapons systems at soon enough, to build brand new high-tech weapons systems and military services for, and the government along with the media would sell that enemy as far worse a threat than they really were, too. Hmmm – More patterns...
Ann Woolner, being the thoroughly connective thinker that she is, also does not fail to point out the déjà vu, je ne sais quoi of the Rally for Decency that was held over on the opposite side of the nation, in the Orange Bowl, in a knee-jerk reaction to the attempt by Jim Morrison to “pervert America’s youth,” as if the desire to explore new ways of expression could be halted by persecuting one guy, or vilifying Rock 'n' Roll, or homosexuals, etc. etc.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
 Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907
Singer Anita Bryant, was one of the headliners. That was before she began to lead the “Save Our Children” crusade to stop gays from convincing the little tykes to join in all the joys of being gay. On their page about Anita Bryant, the website Biographicon attributes the following oft-repeated and paraphrased quotes to her:

"As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children" and "If gays are granted rights, next we'll have to give rights to prostitutes and to people who sleep with St. Bernards and to nail biters."
OMG – watch out for those evil nail biters – word has it, they are all sex maniacs! I wonder if Jim Morrison, who was, by the way, acquitted of a felony and several other ridiculous charges and fully deserves to have his record cleansed because there never was any proof of him whipping his Lizard King out that night, was a nail biter.

Shine on, Jim Morrison.
(From the Give Credit Where Credit Is Due department: I lifted that final clever turn of phrase from this article on CNN: Doors singer Jim Morrison wins indecent exposure pardon, which left me wondering why on earth someone would claim that Jim Morrison would reject this pardon when he was in the process of appealing the convictions when he died?)

1 comment:

Expat Daily News Latin America Editor said...

That piece of human Garbage, Kenny Lay was acquited of all charges the moment he died. His conviction was vacated, and his wife sued to get all the seized goods back. And Jim Morrison had to wait 40 years to be pardoned? Justice American Style.

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