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Petie Petrovich © 2002


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As much as David Bleakney’s anti-Bono polemic makes me laugh, I don't think I'm ready to join him in such a wholehearted condemnation of the man.

Among other things, he fails to mention that Bono almost single-handedly convinced Jesse Helms and the others in his odious camp to support legislation for debt relief. I personally would put this in the category of "reasons not to dismiss this as easily as it seems it would be easy to dismiss it with a sarcastic grin and a ‘Bono just doesn't get it’". Sure, he wears funny glasses and he says stupid things -- and clearly he does not know as much about Canadian Prime Ministers as comrade Bleakney. But to discount the potential of the popular to direct our political attention, or at least encourage a bit of popular political engagement, is a little elitist and perhaps more dangerous than Bono himself. In particular, given the otherwise sorry-ass state of affairs in American popular music -- shall we mention the likes of Britney Spears here? – I’m inclined to say that we need a whole lot more of the "While I have your attention on me as a pop star, let me tell you about some other things I'm thinking about" syndrome.

Amnesty International is Bono’s flagship thang, and who knows how many American teens he's introduced to it through his liner notes? Do we want to persuade him not to take the occasional political stand – and get fewer kids asking questions about what Amnesty does and why at a handily-impressionable age? I bet Aung San Suu Kyi, long-ago abandoned for having become passé in the minds of international "radicals", appreciates that "All that you can't leave behind" encourages people to not forget about her – and I further bet most American teens hadn’t any idea who she was, or where she was, or what she did and why she did it, until they devoured those liner notes. As an eighth grader it was a song, not a teacher or a history book or an earnest TV program, that taught me what Bloody Sunday was – and I’d guess that the same is true for many English kids, too.

As far as I'm concerned, if you think you're an advocate for the "working class" or the "underpriviledged" or whatever categories you want to use, you can't also wholeheartedly ignore popular culture. If just one of the buffoons at the Superbowl saw Bono perform, and because of that went on to join protests around the Waldorf-Astoria hotel at the World Economic Forum, then I’d get all teary-eyed and say I think it's worth it. In any case, it is way too complicated to say he just "doesn't get it", and it is far to arrogant to be so complacent as to say that we do. I bet he "gets it" more than Mr. Bleakney is willing to admit, and that in some ways he's decided to play the Elvis game for a reason.

Now I'm going to put War in the CD player now, then October, and then, well, Ella Fitzgerald.




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