When you admire both John Lennon and William F. Buckley Jr., you occasionally have to take sides on thorny issues. Much as I sympathized with those who defended John Lennon against Buckley's criticisms {Free for All, Oct. 27}, I have to say Buckley was right. Lennon's Utopia, wrapped though it might be in a simple and beautiful melody, is far from satisfactory. History has shown that earthly Utopias, where people are stripped of their belief in God and of their property rights, have quickly sunk into ugly violence.

The letter writers seemed to think Buckley's chief offense was the act of criticism itself. But sincerity is not a protection from criticism; sincerity is a quality or a characteristic, not a virtue. After all, many people, particularly in this century, have been sincere in their support of leaders and philosophies whose primary goals were destructive.

"Imagine" is not "just" a song -- it is a sincere description of an ideal world. While Lennon did reinterpret the lyrics later to take the edge off, every indication is that he meant what he said. He also asked for a response.

Buckley responded fairly, and those whose admiration of Lennon extends to his philosophy ought to respond fairly in turn.

-- Kenneth A. Killiany