Dead Men Tell No Tales (Much Less Aid a European Feminist Revolution)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

I was awarded second-place in the writing category for National History Day at my school this year. I hope to win county and compete as a finalist, but more than that, I hope that you will find this piece of writing interesting, because I am of the firm belief that academic writing has no excuse to be utter, boorish garbage.

Prologue

1956

While it is not uncommon for youth to idealize and even go so far as to attempt to emulate celebrities as they work towards finding their own individuality, Mark David Chapman, a seemingly innocuous boy from humble, Georgian beginnings, was a rather peculiar child in that his elect celebrity idolatry possessed his life so incredibly and madly that it led him to murdering the very man whom he had revered since childhood.[1] Mark’s in-person encounters with his notoriety were not particularly unique or even intimate, and even for a young boy the delusions which must have motivated him to commit such a heinous crime could be born of none other than untreated mental illness, allegedly schizophrenia.[2] However, to understand the motives of our incarcerated subject at hand, more than labels must be observed, and so, it is necessary to begin at the beginning, and consider all aspects thoroughly before making a conclusion.

Mark’s first encounter with his superstar was at a church picnic in Liverpool, England, during a family vacation.[3] Being only a year old at the time he was exhausted from the trip, and cranky, and while his father had dismissed himself to grab a drink, his mother was doing everything in her power to appease him, but nothing worked. That is, until the band started playing. From the very first skiffle song, he was struck silent.[4] There was something so captivating about the music that he didn’t dare make a sound, only rocking back and forth in concentration.[5]

That was Mark’s first impression of the Beatles, or rather, the Quarrymen, as they were called at the time, and his first impression of John Lennon.[6] What had begun as general appreciation for music turned into fanaticism in his teen years, for while the style of the Beatles’ music changed over time, his enthusiasm for it held fast.[7] While others grew up concerning themselves with political going-ons such as debates concerning the Cold War and Sputnik, he knew that it was all foolishness, and “phoniness”, as  Holden Caulfield called it, and that the only things that mattered were the real ones, like Lennon, who made beautiful things.[8]

 

 

Part One: The Childhood of Mark David Chapman

1963

In grade school, my parents were less concerned with me than when I was a baby. My father turned his attention towards the civil rights movements and yelling at the tv, while my mother became obsessed with attending NOW meetings, leaving me to my own devices in afterschool hours, which I would spend hanging out with my friends from school and listening to the Beatles (Harrison and Starr had joined the group by this time, and the band had been rebranded).[9] At eight years old, me and my best friend, Michael, were still trying to find out who we were and what we were doing. While we hadn’t reached puberty yet, Michael was already interested in girls. Personally, I was more interested in the Beatles. They had risen in popularity quite significantly after the release of their first hit single, “Love Me Do”, one of the UK Top 20 Hits during that time, and I recall often wishing I lived in Liverpool, so I could see the Beatles and meet people who appreciated them just as much as myself.[10] In a few years, what would become known as the British invasion would begin in England, and the country would become inundated with rock bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Animals, and, of course, the Beatles.[11] I remember one conversation which I had had with Michael concerning my frustrations quite vividly.

“Michael,” I had said, “I don’t understand why you’re too stupid to listen to the Beatles. All you care about these days is dumb music and dumb girls and I hate it.”

“But it isn’t stupid!” he had protested. “You can’t argue that “Heartbreak Hotel” isn’t loads better than “P.S I Love You”.[12] You can tell that by the fact that Presley’s song titles are way cooler! I mean, what even are The Beatles? Didn’t they used to be the Moondogs or something?[13] It’s just super lame. And the uniforms are lame. They always wear grey, and they don’t even have collars.”[14]

I remember being desperate at the time to find a companion who could share in my passion for true music, and I pride myself in my tactical response.

“What’s going to win a girl over more, though, Michael? A song about broken hearts, or a song about love?” I emphasized the last word, a promiscuous one in my eight-year-old mind, in spite of the rise of risqué entertainment in Georgia that had provided me with my first glimpse of partially exposed breasts, which I sometimes caught a glimpse of off my father’s tv late in the night.[15]

“Well, you have a point, there,” Michael muttered. “Still, girls love Elvis Presley because he’s cool!”

“Well, I watch the Beatles’ live performances on tv,” I parried, “and the crowd is full of girls, all jumping and smiling and clapping.”[16]

“Well, maybe,” Michael condoned, “but were they turned on?”

“What’s that?”

Michael had an older brother.

“I don’t know, I think it has to do with—”

At this point we were interrupted by the inception of an argument between my parents downstairs. Apparently, my mother had gotten back from NOW.[17] My father was not happy. As was my habit, I listened anxiously from the safety of my bedroom, my heart instantly beating faster.

“You are not to go to those meetings anymore!” my father bellowed, “I need you at home, working, you hear me?”

“But I am working! I have a paying job!”

“Well women aren’t supposed to work like that!”

“Well I think they can, and that they don’t receive nearly enough credit for it! I’ll have you know that Dr. Saunders is an incredibly successful woman doctor who is working hard towards finding a solution to battling morphine addiction![18] Don’t you worry about drugs, and the crazy ideas that people get about them these days?[19] Aren’t you glad she’s making the world a safer place for our boy?”

“If Saunders is so successful, then why haven’t I heard of her?”

“She lives in England, dear.”[20]

“Well, then what she does has nothing to do with our problems! With my problems!”

“Can you stop screaming? Mark will—”

“Mark can go to hell, and you will, too, if I ever see you going to those meetings again. No one will listen to you anyway because you’re just a bunch of women with stupid signs,” my father said, indicating that the conversation was done.[21] I listened for the slam of the door and a car exiting the driveway before I breathed freely again.

“What I was saying was,” Michael began, but I cut him off.

“Just go home,” I said.

And he did.

Such arguments between my parental figures were common at the time, and I often wondered why my mother stayed with my father in spite of it all. One night when I was ten years old, my mother had had a particularly nasty fight with my father and was sleeping in my room, and I am ashamed to say that I took advantage of her emotional vulnerability and tried to squeeze it out of her.

“Why do you stay with dad?” I had asked, in the most unassuming tone possible. I remember hearing a sharp intake of breath as my mother thought of how she would answer. It was too dark to see her face, but I felt her body stiffen from across the bed.

“That’s not a question for little boys to ask,” she said.

“Does he love you?” I pressed.

“I…” my mother stammered, “I think he does his best.”

“If he loved you,” I said, “he’d try to communicate his differences maturely and come to mutual agreement. That’s what Paul McCartney says in his songs when he’s talking about fighting with his girlfriend.”[22]

“What?” my mother asked. “Oh, you’re talking about that band, again.”

“Don’t dismiss me!” I said, defensively. “The Beatles are good people. You should marry one of them instead.”

“I don’t know, baby,” my mother replied, laughing quietly, “the church doesn’t like divorce too much, and they wouldn’t like the Beatles, either. Didn’t Lennon say that he was more popular than Jesus Christ?[23] I don’t know if this band is such a good influence on you. You should try to be more like your father, maybe; do what he does.”

“I hate him,” I grumbled.

“Mark!”

“Well, I do,” I said, obstinately, “I hate him, and I hate it here. I wish we lived in England.”

“Why is that?”

“Because Dad doesn’t live in England,” I said, “and because the Beatles do. Then you could marry the Beatles and have no problems there.”

“There are problems in England, too,” my mother said quietly. “Women still face oppression there. In the 1500s, King Henry VIII broke off Britain’s union with the Roman Catholic church simply because he wanted to divorce his wife and couldn’t.[24] Even to this day, the struggle continues. Women are legally allowed to be paid less than men in the workplace, and there isn’t nearly enough awareness for issues such as rape and abuse.[25] Women are still objectified and viewed as babymakers, and devalued if they don’t want children, or even if they can’t have them.”

“Well, changes are being made,” I argued, “I’m sure they’ll make a new rule in Europe where women can get paid the same amount, and people that listen to the Beatles will understand how women really want to be treated. Plus, they’ve already made an injection that stimulates women’s ovaries to lead to pregnancy, so they don’t have to feel bad if they have trouble having children.[26] If we moved there, you’d never have to worry about infertility. Although you can’t have a doctor stop a pregnancy there; you’d have to drink bleach or do it in secret, or you’d go to jail.[27] But I guess you could be a lesbian.”

“Markie?” my mom asked anxiously. “Where are you hearing these things?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, “Michael has an older brother.”

 

 

Part Two: Mark’s Miraculous Manifesto

Life was supposed to get better after high school, but it didn’t. In spite of my finally accepting Christianity for lack of better things to turn to (if the Beatles did it, I figured I would, too. That was before I realized what phonies they were), bad things kept happening to me, and feminism wasn’t working in my favor.[28] I had finally grown interested in women, but it seemed the wrong generation to do so, what with their newfound desire for independence from men. Even my revered, sacred Great Britain bent to the will of the feminine mystique, passing the Equal Pay Act before I turned sixteen.[29] On top of this, obsession over Black Pride and the Bureau of Indian Affairs added especial emphasis to respecting women of color.[30] However, all this was part of a larger problem.

The problem is best identified by Caulfield, the main character in Salinger’s novel, Catcher in the Rye.[31] The problem is that adults talk too much about unimportant things. Even the Beatles grew into this with time, singing about war and drugs and even making a comedic movie just to become one with society.[32]

Take, for example, Johnny Carson. He literally has a show for talking, where viewers feel nothing and think nothing.[33] Last I visited my father (an unpleasant event in which he commended me for my new job as counselor for Vietnamese refugees, only to quickly derail into a long spiel about Vietnam war), I watched in disgust as he sat in front of the tv, absorbing The Tonight’s Show’s latest dramas.[34] Carson wasn’t educating or helping anyone. Lord knows the last thing my father needed was more controversies to rant about. Come to think of it, I would really like to kill Johnny Carson; him and Elizabeth Taylor and the rest of the phonies, too.[35] I’ll have to make a list.

That won’t work. I don’t even own a gun.

Then I’ll just have to kill myself.[36]

  1.  

If you try to kill yourself in Hawaii, then they finally pay attention to you. They take you in and talk to you and pretend they cared the whole freaking time. Heck, they cared so much one almost expected the Beatles to show up with a personal get well soon concert just for me, only the Beatles had split in ’71 due to political differences and internal arguments and the rest of the plaguey side effects of phoniness.[37] Anyway, things began to look up slightly for me after the big suicide stunt, and what I said actually started to matter a little bit after that, enough that I even got married.[38] However, I knew that my significance to the world would fade once I resumed life as usual, and that that was something which I couldn’t bear to live with, so I needed a new stunt, one that would change the world and get their attention back. I was tired of being nobody.

The year of 1980 I bought a gun.[39]

Lennon needed to die. He needed to die in order for me to live the way I wanted to, as Somebody.[40] But he also needed to die because of what he’d done. As I would later tell the court during my hearing, it was what God would have wanted.[41] Lennon used his songs in a way that was unholy because they told women they could be equal to men, but women are supposed to subservient to them.[42] Lennon’s works contributed to the problem that I faced, and that Caulfield faced, when it came to women.[43] Women no longer wanted to be subdued. Worse yet, men were condoning that. If men had only stood up for themselves and for god, this wouldn’t have happened, but Lennon was a clever devil, so he disguised his messages through music, until it was too late.

I shot him five times.

I acted alone.[44]

When they found me, I was reading The Catcher in the Rye.[45] If you haven’t read the novel, it’s really about preserving innocence, and childhood, and fighting off the evilness of adulthood and its plaguey nonsense. I fancied at the time that I had done that, by killing the demon, Lemon. The truth is, though, I hadn’t. While on the surface, it may look like I achieved my goal, that isn’t so.

I have taken away from society one of its best men, but Lennon’s impact on that society remains. Try as I might, his power couldn’t be grappled from his cold hands, not after he had made a home in the warm and beating hearts of many.[46]

 

 

[1] Amy Tikkanen, "Mark David Chapman American Criminal," in Crime, Terrorism, and Counterterrorism (Edinburgh, Scotland: Encylopaedia Britannica, 2020).

[2] Tikkanen, “Mark David.”

[3] "Beatles," in World History: The Modern Era, last modified 2020.

[4] "The Beatles," in Encyclopedia of World Biography Online (Detroit, MI: Gale, 1998).

[5] Mark David Chapman (John Lennon) Mental Health and Personality, directed by Dr. Tom Grande, YouTube, 2020.

[6] “Beatles.”

[7] Crime Museum, "The Murder of John Lennon," in Famous Murders (Crime Museum, 2020),last modified 2020, accessed October 21, 2020; John Simkin, "The Musical Memories of John Simkin," in Spartacus Educational (Spartacus Educational Publishers, 1997),last modified 1997, accessed October 4, 2020.

[8] Raymond L. Garthoff, "Why Did the Cold War Arise, and Why Did It End?," in The Cold War, ed. Walter Hixson, American Journey (Woodbridge, CT: Primary Source Media, 2000); Kate Lohnes, "The Catcher in the Rye," in Novels and Short Stories (Edinburgh, Scotland: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2020); "The Space Race and the Cold War," in Science and Its Times, ed. Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer (Detroit, MI: Gale, 2001).

[9] Susan Gluck Mezey, "Women's Rights Movements," in American Governance, ed. Stephen Schechter, et al. (Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2016); “The Beatles.”

[10] Edelman et al., "1960s: The Way We Lived," 4:

[11] Mark Schwartz, "British invasion," in World History: The Modern Era,last modified 2020; Charles Coletta et al., "1960s: Film and Theater," in Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th- and 21st-Century America, 2nd ed., ed. Cynthia Johnson and Lawrence W. Baker (Detroit, MI: UXL, 2012); ABC-CLIO Databases, "Bob Dylan," in World History: The Modern Era,last modified 2020.

[12] Dave Marsh, "Elvis Presley American Singer and Actor," in Actors (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2020),last modified October 30, 2020.

[13] “The Beatles.”

[14] “Beatles.”

[15] Charles Coletta et al., "1960s: Film and Theater," in Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th- and 21st-Century America, 2nd ed., ed. Cynthia Johnson and Lawrence W. Baker (Detroit, MI: UXL, 2012).

[16] . The Beatles: Love Me Do - 50th Anniversary - BBC News, adapted by The Beatles Archive HQ, YouTube, 2012, The Beatles - I Want to Hold Your Hand - Performed Live on the Ed Sullivan Show 2/9/64, adapted by The Beatles, YouTube, 2016.

[17] Mezey, "Women's Rights," 5:

[18] "Cicely Saunders," in Encyclopedia of World Biography Online (Detroit, MI: Gale, 2005).

[19] Edelman et al., "1960s: The Way We Lived," 4:

[20] "Cicely Saunders," 25:

[21] Historic England, "Women's Rights," in Women's Rights,last modified 2020, accessed September 13, 2020.

[22] Christina Pazzanese, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car," The Harvard Gazette (Cambridge, MA), December 10, 2019, december 10 2019 edition, Arts and Humanities,accessed September 12, 2020.

[23] “Beatles.”

[24] "Henry VIII Divorces Catherine of Aragon: 1533," in Global Events: Milestone Events throughout History, ed. Jennifer Stock (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2014).

[25] Timothy Lambert, "Equal Pay Act 1970," in UK Public General Acts (Crown and database right, 2020),last modified 2020, accessed October 30, 2020.

[26] "Sex in the 1960s: Fertility Drugs," in American Decades, ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. (Detroit, MI: Gale, 2001).

[27] Kashmira Gander, "What an Illegal Abortion Was Like in the 1960s, Reveals 86-Year-Old Activity," in Indy Life (Independent, 2020),   last modified March 30, 2017, accessed November 1, 2020.

[28] "Beatles," in World History: The Modern Era,last modified 2020.

[29] Timothy Lambert, "Equal Pay Act 1970," in UK Public General Acts (Crown and database right, 2020),last modified 2020, accessed October 30, 2020.

[30] Edelman et al., "1960s: The Way We Lived," 4:

[31] Lohnes, "The Catcher," 

[32] “President Nixon Meets Elvis, 1970,” Eyewitness to History, 2007; MTV Europe - Beatles Day - November 1st 1993 (Interviews and Promo Clips - 2), performed by MTV Europe, MTV Europe, 1993.

[33] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Johnny Carson," in Actors (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2020),last modified October 19, 2020.

[34]  Tikkanen, "Mark David.”

[35]  Tikkanen, "Mark David.”

[36] Tikkanen, "Mark David.”

[37] “The Beatles.”

[38] Tikkanen, "Mark David.”

[39] Crime Museum, "The Murder."

[40]  Interview with Mark David Chapman John Lennon's Assassin, produced by ABC News, YouTube, 2009.

[41] Interview with.

[42]  Pazzanese, "Baby, You Can Drive," Arts and Humanities, 

[43] Lohnes, "The Catcher," 

[44] Rare Look at Letters from Lennon's Killer, directed by CNN, YouTube, 2013.

[45] Lohnes, "The Catcher," 

[46] Richard Wike et al., "Gender Equality," in Global Attitudes and Trends (Pew Research Center, 2020),last modified October 14, 2019, accessed October 19, 2020.

 


Submitted: January 08, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Ava Rose Weisberg. All rights reserved.

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