For the week of June 30, 1999  thru July 6, 1999  

The Beatles in my life and in a new generation

Commentary by DICK DORWORTH

My youngest son, Jason, graduated from his university a couple of weeks ago. It was a moving occasion, a happy time, a significant event in Jason’s life and in the lives of his family members. The ceremonies, on a sunny California day in a Santa Cruz grassy field above the Pacific Ocean, were wonderful.

The keynote speaker, Professor Bettina Aptheker, as one might expect from a University of California lecturer on the occasion of her students’ graduation, forcefully addressed several issues that made some of the more conservative members of the audience uneasy, uncomfortable, upset and, in a few cases, incoherent.

Aptheker had been introduced as someone whose lectures "have been known to upset some people." She spoke. Some people were upset. Some applauded and concurred.

The world is an agitating place.

One conservative elder gentleman commented afterward that the speaker should have talked about "real life" instead of "about butterflies and things," though I heard no mention of butterflies.

In fact, Aptheker went directly to the heart of several current national and international issues and conflicts. They included the connections between the bombing of Serbia and the youth of America adopting violence as a tool of conflict resolution; the connections between the inordinate wealth of a few and the growing poverty for all too many in the richest nation in the history of man; and the deep, inviolable connections in a nation of immigrants between citizens, immigrants and those referred to as "illegal aliens." She reminded the good citizens of the agricultural state of California of the connections between their good economy and the labor of all those immigrants and "illegal aliens."

Those who did not like to think too much about those connections were upset by such questions as "How can a human being be an ‘alien?’" and "How can a human being be illegal?" and "Are some aliens legal?" Those who enjoy and appreciate learning about connections and how they work were delighted and informed and, one hopes, inspired to strive to, in the words of Gandhi printed on the graduation program, "Be the change you want to see in the world."

That all things are connected is easier to see at events like university graduation ceremonies than, say, a shift change at one of the many American owned factories in Juarez, Mexico where wages are low, working conditions harsh, corruption is the status quo and environmental and labor laws non-existent or easily circumvented. Still, what exists in Juarez is connected to and discussed at graduations in California, distressing as the dialogue may be to some.

The choice of the graduation song was interesting, charming, and loaded with meaning and connections for me and, I presume, many others. Two students sang The Beatles’ song, "In My Life," written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney 30 years ago.

The music of The Beatles is connected to the global culture of an entire generation and, now, that generation’s children. It was wonderful, moving and inspiring, that a university graduating class of 1999 would select "In My Life" as its song. It reminded me of the years before Jason’s birth and of the personal and social turmoil and joys of that time.

Music connects people, and The Beatles were the best known and most influential band of an era when the Vietnam War galvanized a generation that recognized the connections between corruption at home and the waging of war in a foreign land, and who stood in opposition to that war, to that corruption. Such opposition makes the world a better place. Whether The Beatles sang about love, Lucy, blackbirds, sunshine, submarines, Madonna, wisdom, lonely hearts or revolution, their music always connected people through the heart.

Inspired action comes from the heart.

Opposing that which is corrupt and destructive to life is a most worthy action in all times.

I listened to the words to "In My Life":

"There are places I’ll remember

all my life,

though some have changed.

Some forever, not for better,

Some have gone, and some remain.

All these places have their moments

with lovers and friends

I still can recall.

Some are dead and some are living

In my life, I’ve loved them all."

It occurred to me that a generation choosing 30-year-old Beatles music for their graduation theme song understands a bit more about connections, and will do a bit better job of making this a better world, than the generation (or generations) before them. Probably a lot more, and a lot better.


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