By ERIC J. SEADER | January 22, 2018
Life After America: A memoir of the wild and crazy 1960s
By Joseph Mark Glazner
232 pp. Joseph Mark Glazner.
Imagine being a peace-loving, creative 22-year-old, watching helplessly as your President and his like-minded Congress hurtle the country towards an unjust war at a deadly pace. You know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when you are called up for the draft, you could be sent to the front lines in an unfamiliar country and expected to maim and kill other young men who have also been sent there against their will. And, there’s a good chance you could easily end up returning in a body bag yourself. What would you do? Would you sit and wait for the tide to come surging towards you, or would you grab a lifeline and pull yourself out of harm’s way?
That was the dilemma that presented itself to Joseph Mark Glazner in 1967, just as he was trying to put the finishing touches on his first novel, falling in love with a smart, beautiful woman, and living the artist’s life in Los Angeles at the dawn of the sexual revolution. President Johnson was escalating the Vietnam War. Wanting no part in any armed conflict, much less an unjust one, Glazner was left with but one viable choice: to leave it all behind for a new land where he could continue to live, breathe, love, and write.
Heart racing, passport in hand, and readying his story for the border patrol, Glazner nervously crossed into Canada at Montreal’s Dorval Airport (since renamed in honor of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s predecessor and father, Pierre). Would the FBI be waiting for him with handcuffs on the other side? Would he be arrested before he even got to the customs agent? “I was a fugitive committing a felony,” he sheepishly, yet matter-of-factly tells the reader, but his mind was quickly set at ease by the friendly immigration official who welcomed him — with a smile and well-wishes — to what would eventually become his new adoptive country.
The book, although a memoir of the author’s experiences in the 1960s, is unbelievably timely, given our current political climate. While every election cycle seems to bring the “I’m moving to Canada if [X] gets elected” threats, rarely does anyone ever make good on their promises. Glazner put his words into action and — in the ultimate act of resistance — gave up his life in America, citing irreconcilable differences, and took up with a new sovereignty. Lately, I have been wondering what happened to the fighting spirit exhibited by my parents’ generation — the generation that had sit-ins and love-ins and marched tirelessly on Capitol Hill until things changed for the better. My generation (I consider myself to be at the tail end of Gen-X) and the younger generations who occasionally — and casually — march from time to time don’t seem to get what it truly means to sacrifice for one’s beliefs. Instead, far too many hurl trashcans through storefront windows and charge at over-militarized police officers, when instead we should be outwardly focusing our love and peace and forgiveness. Non-violent, peaceful resistance is the only way to move forward as a society and a species.
As if the invaluable lessons of passive resistance and personal and professional perseverance weren’t engaging enough, the reader is further treated to an inside look at the famed Montreal Bed-In, in which John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent their extended honeymoon at The Queen Elizabeth Hotel, protesting the Vietnam War by horizontally philosophizing on peace and making love and encouraging all peaceniks throughout the world to do the same. Glazner got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend time with Lennon, one on one, as they sat together on the floor of the hotel room drawing posters for the seven-day event. “If we just let go of the notion that war is inevitable, we could all live in peace,” Lennon said in response to Glazner’s explanation of his “La guerre est fini [sic]” poster. “It’s French for ‘the war is over,’” Glazner said. “Like we just declare the war over and walk away.” Glazner himself was inspired by a similarly-titled French film playing at a theatre in his neighborhood. John and Yoko’s “War is over! If you want it” campaign was just one of the lustrous fruits to be harvested from the garden of bed-in, as it also served as the site where their peace anthem “Give Peace A Chance” was recorded. (In the official film, Glazner’s poster appears at 1:22)
I am, admittedly, an incredibly slow reader, but I tore through this book — page after beautifully-written page, providing an explicit view of one man’s wild life. The memoir offers wonderful nuggets of wisdom, gives a rare a look at John Lennon: the fallible human, and dazzles us with Glazner’s epic journey. The invitingly-short chapters, captivating detail, and inspirational anecdotes are sure to have you staying up way past your bedtime.