With the announcement of their Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Tour, U2 have talking a lot about how they feel that that record of songs has a new resonance in a post Brexit Britain and Trump led America. The world shifted in 2016 and these songs they feel are more relevant than ever.
This morning, as I gave thanks and reflected on Martin Luther King Day I found two U2 songs from The Unforgettable Fire, the record before Joshua Tree, that speak directly into this weekend’s appalling attack on civil right’s hero John Lewis by the sadly too familiar bad mouthed Donald Trump. America; the rest of the world are embarrassed for you!
In 1984 U2 were discovering America and Martin Luther King. It was Reagan’s America and the band were particularly uneasy with the assumption that their Christian faith meant that they were right wing Republicans. Bono was particularly unimpressed with Reagan’s foreign policy. He had visited Central America, and been shot at, to see for himself.
It seems that Bono had in his head a protest song about Reagan called Pride. It was about pride in its worst form, it was a arrogant pride before a fall song. The discovery then of Martin Luther King, particularly through an exhibition the band had seen at the Chicago Peace Museum, sent Bono’s song lyric in a whole other direction.
Bono was taken by the pride that Martin Luther King had brought to a black community living under the Jim Crow caste system. This was the pride of human dignity and respect. The song became a heroic anthem to the campaigners for justice, particularly those who used peaceful means. Pride (In the Name of Love) became a song to fuel the struggle for equality. They even added the anthem and hymn-like MLK to close out The Unforgettable Fire album.
On the 2005 Vertigo Tour my standout moment was when the lights brought up all the African flags and, before Where The Streets Have No Name, Bono said:
“From the bridge at Selma in Mississippi
To the mouth of the river Nile
From the swamplands of Louisiana
To the high peaks of Kilimanjaro
From Dr. King's America
To Nelson Mandela's Africa
The journey of equality moves on
On, on, on”
Indeed it does. And in 2017, days away from Donald Trump being sworn in as the 45th President of America, equality is on the brink. Muslims, immigrants and the black community are feeling the bite of his rants and tweets.
This last week Trump dared castigate Senator John Lewis. John Lewis is an iconic hero of the American dream, a hero of Martin Luther King’s dream. This is a man who stood beside Dr. King at Selma, a man who was beaten on that bridge, a man who was jailed endless times, a man who has been described as the moral conscience of America. The incoming President dismissed him as all talk! As I said, America; we are embarrassed for you!
There are two kinds of pride right there in this Surmise. The reason for U2’s song in 1984 is nailing the news headlines right now. We have one kind of pride coming out of America’s elected President. We have another kind of pride in John Lewis, a life committed for a better America and a better world for EVERYONE. We choose our pride…
As Bono shouts often in concert… sing it for Martin Luther King… On Martin Luther King Day, I will be singing it loud and proud for John Lewis…
“In the name of love
What more in the name of love…”