First Person: Two Great Revolutionaries: ‘Loving Spirits Who Will Live Forever’

By Cynthia Johnson
Friday July 27, 2007

By Cynthia Johnson 


Had he lived, John Lennon would have been 67 years of age today (Friday). On Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. in Berkeley, there will be a party and film to remember musical genius and peace icon John Lennon and honor beloved local activist Hal Carlstad. 

We will show the outstanding 2006 film by David Leaf and John Schenfeld The U.S. vs. John Lennon. 

The Lennon documentary shows the vivid history of Vietnam-era resistance and John’s evolution from Beatle to inspiring peace activist and threat to the national security establishment. Yoko Ono Lennon said “Of all the documentaries made about John, this is the one he would have loved.” 

The present day interviews with Yoko in the film are priceless and a sad reminder of the current brutal situation in Iraq where so many innocents are dying. Many may have not realized the intense efforts of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover and Congress (specifically Strom Thurmond) to neutralize John’s impact for peace by trying to deport Lennon before the 1972 presidential election when 18-21 year olds could vote for the first time. John was assassinated Dec. 6, 1980 just after Reagan had been “elected” and we can only speculate on what his profound ongoing impact might have been had John lived. The last years showing the family and John with his son Sean, who was also born on July 27, are very touching.  

We will remember Hal by finishing raising the funds for the state of the art sound system begun at his memorial July 15. 

There was an SRO crowd of hundreds at the St. Joseph the Worker Church July 15, including family and friends from his teaching, beekeeping, winemaking, activism and other diverse circles, including Country Joe, who sang “Remember Me and Carry On.” 

Cindy Sheehan, who became the face of the current U.S. antiwar movement, called him her” activist father” as Hal encouraged her to speak her truth just months after her son Casey died in Iraq and before she became a national figure. She co-founded the Gold Star Families for Peace at the Berkeley Fellowship in February 2005 with Hal’s encouragement, and now is leading protests for impeachment and keeping constitutional government alive. Cindy and Hal were truly connected on an energetic level as so many were.  

Some of Hal’s other peacemaking friends thought a very appropriate legacy for a man arrested so many times—almost as many as his other late friend, Father Bill O’Donnell—would be a state of the art sound system, the Hal Carlstad Wireless Portable Sound System, for all social justice groups to use in their ongoing demos, protests and street theater. Many peace groups have been sponsoring a monthly Die-In at the San Francisco Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate, the first Thursday of every month until the Iraq Occupation Ends. The next one Thursday, Aug. 2 at 1 p.m. will be dedicated to Hal and will have the new system for sound in place. 

“Hal was a man of action who loved to see creative action to educate people and the media” said an Earth First friend. A fitting closing at the Memorial was the huge white Bird of Peace puppet that gracefully circled around the church support by members of the Art and Revolution Collective. 

The UU Social Justice Committee hopes to raise the money needed for the Sound System on Saturday night and anything over will go for a scholarship for youth to go to Cuba with Pastors for Peace Caravan. Hal loved Cuba and went there many times challenging the embargo. A health professional who visited Hal often at the Intensive Care Unit stated, “Hal might well have survived had he the benefit of a Cuban health care system. He would have loved Michael Moore’s Sicko too. Hal was not denied a costly operation due to his Medicare, but a health care system based on greed is not adequate.” 

Obviously the past is over but not hard to imagine that these two heros would want a government and system based on caring for all living things and would want us to be happy, love more and keep moving for change knowing we all have different roles at different times of our life. 

The doors to the Fellowship Hall will open at 6pm on Saturday and there will be tasty, healthy treats to celebrate John’s Birthday and Hal’s ongoing legacy. The program will start with joyful musical offerings by Maxina Ventura including the great Pat Humphries song “Great Spirits will Live Forever—We’re All Swimming to the Other Side” and the film will start right after, with a discussion & party to follow the film. All are welcome and no one will be turned away.  


For further information on these events call 528-5403.