“How did we get here? How did you get here?” Bono asks during a performance of the oft forgotten U2 single “Last Night On Earth” from PopMart: Live from Mexico City and on a quiet Sunday afternoon and a very strange occurrence I found myself asking the same thing. All might have been quiet on this day, but there was nothing quiet about the two that came before it.
On Friday, the forty fifth President of the United States of America was sworn in to the tune of controversy. On Saturday the world marched in solidarity in protest and we here at home in St. John’s were hit by a less than raging blizzard. Eventful weekend for sure. Cut to Sunday where things are fairly quiet and the city tries to dig out (and I’m sitting on my couch wondering what is the shoveling protocol for the little downtown street I live on) when I engage in an online war of words with someone on a U2 fan forum.
Now I know what you must be thinking, the war of words must have been over which album is greater; The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby (the no brainer winner…greatest album of all time) but no; the argument was over basic human decency and the #WomensMarch that had occurred the day before.
Let’s backtrack a little and provide some context here as to why this whole thing started in the first place. The Edge, U2’s lead guitarist, and general hero to many (see Coldplay, The Killers, myself, etc.) took part in the Women’s March Los Angeles alongside his wife and even grabbed a guitar for a live performance of “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” (a song written about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) with some other musicians.
Now, I don’t know how much you know about U2 other than the fact that they gave you their last studio album for free on iTunes a couple of years ago but this band has been at the forefront of activism for nearly the entire four decades that they have been around addressing issues concerned with poverty, disease, and social injustice. (I could start listing but let’s just take my word here shall we?) So as a member of a band that has consistently stood up for social injustice it would not be all that peculiar to see The Edge taking part in the Women’s March now, would it?
I would also think that it would not be peculiar that someone on a U2 fan forum would be a big fan of the band. For the record, I don’t believe to be a fan you need to completely support everything that the band or person does (take a look back at my Kanye article) but I have to think if you are a fan of U2 then you have to also have some moderate to strong feelings of social justice given that is has been an ongoing theme in the band’s music for just about as long as they’ve been around. At least this is not the case for one forum member with the username “Amansman”.
This whole thing started when a fellow forum user made a post in the “Latest U2 News/Sightings” about The Edge participating in the Women’s March. Our friend “Amansman” exercised his right of free speech to say:
I read this post this morning and was taken aback. Just exactly why does The Edge look like such a tool “right now”? Did he look like a tool when he and the other members of the band stood up for Apartheid in the 1980s? What about in the 90’s when the band gave exposure to the atrocities occurring in Sarajevo? What about when they showed solidarity for the Arab Spring during their performances of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on the U2 360° Tour? Did he look like a tool all those other times he and the band have spoken up for social justice causes in the last forty years? Also… the rest of what he said was just plain ridiculous, but points for seeing the importance of exercise.
This comment from “Amansman” garnered some heat from other users but they were very passive comments. I don’t even know why but for some reason I felt the need to speak up; possibly because the notion that a U2 fan would be surprised that a member of U2 was participating in a social justice movement was utterly absurd or because I have sort of resolved not to let people say ignorant, and uninformed things simply because it is their belief any more. So I (as the kids say these days) “clapped back” with:
I thought there was no point to tell this person how idiotic he sounded, so I tried to be sarcastic and make it seem that “Amansman” was using comedy to make a point. I knew this wasn’t the case sadly, but one can dream. I also threw in a quote from Jurassic Park because that movie is awesome and because we were talking about a bunch of “clever girls” after all. I figured I was going to get some sort of response but wasn’t too worried by it. Boy (or girl) was I right. “Amansman” then said:
Wait. Nothing has happened or IS happening? Wow. I have been completely misinformed and have really misinterpreted people’s feelings. Also, again, a U2 member acting like an activist isn’t happening because it’s the “in thing”…
This prompted “Amansman” to reply with:
There is so much wrong with that “Amansman” said. I’m a man (despite the fact that “Amansman” somehow does not realize this) and I don’t joke like that. What a generalization. This goes back to the fall and the whole Pussygate thing and the discussion of “locker-room talk”. I’ve been going to the gym for a long time now and yes, I have heard guys talk about women but not like that (which was the point I was trying to get at in my response). Also, I will say that yes, I do think that sometimes people are too sensitive and we have gotten a bit extreme with political correctness but talking about violating someone simply because you can is not a joke.
And then finally, in a shining example of being a master debater, “Amansman” replies with:
I must admit that I had to Google what an “SJW” was. Turns out it stands for “Social Justice Warrior” which I am unfortunately not. I believe in social justice but I have not graduated to warrior and I’m a little ashamed of that. Yes, I am a substitute teacher but no, I don’t live with my parents; but I digress.
So, how did we get here? How did “Amansman” get here; condemning an exercise of social justice activism on a U2 fan site? A quick look at his own profile shows that he joined the site two months ago which would line up with the US election.
Did he join this site simply to troll on any political topics or because he, like all U2 fans are waiting for the band’s delayed newest album Songs Of Experience? I’d like to think it’s the latter but with the way people conduct themselves online and his choice of username, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the latter. In fact, several years ago, I stumbled upon this fan site after a U2 Facebook group I was part of was swarmed by what we now call trolls. This had nothing to do with politics, simply an organized group of people who had such disdain for a band that they took time out of their day to comment on a fan site. Why do people waste so much energy on things like this? Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go spam Taylor Swift’s Instagram… I kid.
So what do we do about this; and I mean that in the larger sense of the world and not just a disagreement on a band’s fan forum? Look, we aren’t always going to agree on things and that is to be expected. The one thing we can’t forget, though (and I have touched on this in a previous article), is that we can be involved in politics no matter what side wins, and no matter if there is an election happening or not. What we saw around the world this past weekend was democracy at play.
On Friday, the winner of an election took office and on Saturday those that opposed showed their displeasure in a peaceful manner.
To end the article the way I started it, I’m going to quote some lyrics from another often forgotten U2 single, “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”; a song which was influenced by the campaign of one
A change of heart comes slow
It’s not a hill, it’s a mountain
As you start out the climb
Do you believe me, or are you doubting
We’re gonna make it all the way to the light
But I know I’ll go crazy if I don’t go crazy tonight
Every generation gets a chance to change the world
Pity the nation that won’t listen to your boys and girls
Cos the sweetest melody is the one we haven’t heard
Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear?
The right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear
Oh, but a change of heart comes slow
So to everyone who exercised their democratic rights and marched on Saturday, I salute you. Let’s do our best to inform and listen, not preach and belittle. Show solidarity in numbers and in peace and don’t be afraid to point out injustice and absurdities.