After his murder, John Lennon became a symbol of pacifism and freedom. This is the guy who had nothing good to say about any of the other Beatles right after the breakup, and who always expressed a mouthful about the military. I loved him, but his thoughts had to be frozen, from his context of words. Lennon, not Lenin, was abashedly anti-Vietnam, and any war. To his enormous credit.
So you know, I was curious as hell about the Lennon Wall. In the ’60s there was Lenin, and then there was Lennon. In fact, there is a distinction, or at least there should, for those born before ’89 and those born after. Spending several days in the old Warsaw pact countries, reminded me of how we used to live! Something Dick Cheney thought we should bring back after 9/11.
For some of us who did not know what to believe about Communism, and post-Stalin/post-Khrushchev periods, the Lennon wall is an amazing exercise on how people react, when they just can’t fathom, things getting any better. So these young graffiti artists, protesters, painted and repainted over the whitewash in this little space, Velkopřevorské náměstí (Grand Priory* Square). Nestled within the fairytale of Prague, just a gritty little spot.
Night after night, we began to watch on Ted Koppel, how the whole bloc was falling apart. Prague, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, the Soviet. It was all becoming unglued. And it was all over with the Velvet Revolution. Moscow fell and it was all over. After the years of cold war, nuclear warheads, Voice of America, Cuba, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Gorbachev, that windbag Reagan, Thatcher, Lech Wałęsa, unabashed propaganda, it was all over.
I had been in the Soviet the year before, and you had to feel for the people, as it was already unglued, it was beginning to unravel. And here I am almost 25 years later, in this little dark square late at night. The only other people are this young Russian couple! They are taking pictures with their cell phones, as Russians become the “new” American tourists.
The wall (actually, it might have first been this little section, left) became an exercise in speech, and it constantly gets a new layer. I feel the sadness of outliving legends. I would rather have Dr. King alive, more than a day to buy furniture. I would rather have had John here today, to make those hilarious and outrageous comments he was known for. I’ll bet he would have made one about his namesake wall. Lennon would probably have gotten a kick out of how it is still a graffiti wall, even thought the initial reason for that graffiti has dispensed.
*A small monastery or nunnery that is governed by a prior or prioress. this is one of those 200 SAT words you had to memorize for the test, but later forget in life–usually a week after the test!