Monday, September 19, 2005

What a Friend We Have in Bono


The New York Times Magazine’s feature article this week is on Paul Hewson, Bono Vox to you and me. I don't count myself among U2's most fervent fans, I thought they peaked with Under a Blood Red Sky, but I am becoming a fan of Bono the activist. You can argue whether debt relief to third-world countries is the panacea for their most desperate ills, but you can’t dispute his genuine passion and conviction for improving the lives of people in Africa, both economically and through AIDS relief. He’s also one hell of a politician, a word that has very little good still associated with it, but in this case, it is meant as a compliment.

It’s easy to ridicule celebrity do-gooders. Often times it is right to do so. Bono himself is often mocked as having a messianic complex. What sets him apart from many of the others, however, is that he doesn’t let the petty adversarial side of politics interfere with his single-minded pursuit of his cause (in the NYT article, Bono dismisses the word “cause” as too light, preferring the word “emergency” to describe the situation in Africa.) And this means, rather than going off on public rants against those government leaders that might harbor views that contrast with his own, he engages them as people and, more often than not it seems, comes away with their support. What a novel approach.

Bono has met with Republicans (gasp!) such as Jesse Helms, Paul O’Neill, and even Rick Santorum, associations that would get most people black balled from the Hollywood party circuit, and used his celebrity, his conviction, and sometimes a little scripture to win them over. Say what you will about these gentlemen, but they are or were in a position of power and Bono saw correctly that they would serve the purposes of his cause much better as allies than adversaries. This obviously isn’t Michael Moore’s modus operandi, but then again the only hunger Moore is worried about ending is his own, a cause he seems to be pursuing with dogged determination.

If Bono were seeking increased federal assistance in New Orleans, you can be sure he wouldn’t have prefaced his pleas with the suggestion that the vice president go …well, we’ve all heard what was said, no need to repeat it here. In its simplest terms, Bono is adhering to the old saying that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Unfortunately, many people would rather dispense with the vinegar at the expense of their cause, which I guess is what I did by making that crack about Moore although I really have no cause that could be aided by one of his twisted documentaries*.

I admire anyone who will cross party or ideological lines to engage the other side for the common good. That is, after all, how government is supposed to work. Granted our politicians often do a poor job of working together, but perhaps part of the problem is that we don’t often enough ask them to.

*One of the best critiques of Moore's work that I have read was penned by an avowed liberal and a Bush detractor who nonetheless saw fit to slam Moore's methods and question his value to the Democratic party. I had hoped to link to the article, but I can't find it.

1 comment:

Monkey Boy said...

Good point. No need to hate, just debate. (I must copyright that phrase).