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Bono’s new e book is greater than a rock star memoir. It’s additionally a strong tribute to America


While Bono was touring the US following the discharge of U2’s fifth studio album, he stopped by the Nashville dwelling of nation music icon Johnny Cash, who alongside together with his spouse June had invited him for lunch.

Cash was a well-liked performer in Bono’s native Ireland, and the 2 singers had already shaped a friendship, bonding over music and their shared religion. Cash, who had struggled with habit to alcohol and barbiturates, was a religious Christian.

As Bono sat on the kitchen desk, he listened as Cash delivered “the most poetic grace I’ve ever heard.” Then Cash, “smiling under his breath, as if June couldn’t hear or see,” ended his grace with, “Sure miss the drugs, though.”

“For all his deep faith and conviction, he could never be the pious type, and maybe that’s why so many are drawn to him,” Bono writes concerning the lunch in his new memoir, “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story.” “Johnny didn’t sing to the damned; he sang with the damned, and sometimes you sensed he might prefer their company.”

Some of this description may apply to Bono as nicely. Born Paul David Hewson in Dublin, Ireland, Bono is a world rock star, an activist and an entrepreneur who’s at present touring the US to advertise his memoir. All these aspects are coated in an entertaining and sometimes hilarious 500-page e book that vividly recounts passages from Bono’s life that he solely hints at in his songs.

Bono’s e book, although, is greater than a rock star’s memoir. It’s a refreshing distinction to the best way many Americans right this moment view religion and politics.

A rising variety of Americans have joined what one commentator referred to as the Fractured States of America: They solely befriend individuals who share their political and spiritual beliefs. But Bono forges shut friendships and alliances with world leaders and politicians with whom he has basic disagreements.

Even his religion connects non secular components that don’t usually intersect. In some e book passages he appears like an evangelical Christian, displaying a deep familiarity with scripture and a reverence for Christ. And but he additionally says that he’s by no means discovered a church he may name dwelling, and “that what the human spirit longs for may not be corralled by any sect or denomination.”

“It’s not just that some of the finest people I’ve known don’t subscribe to any particular faith tradition; it’s more that people who openly profess faith can be — how shall I put this? — such a pain in the arse,” he writes. “In a world where it’s impossible to avoid advertising, I don’t want the person next to me hard selling their take on the Big Questions. Live your love is the right answer.”

But Bono does specific religion in one other supply. It’s what he describes as “the idea” of America.

As any informal fan of U2 is aware of, U2 has lengthy had a detailed relationship with the US.

The group shaped in Dublin in 1978 when Bono teamed with three highschool classmates: Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., and Richard “The Edge” Evans. They broke by way of within the early ’80s with their third studio album, “War,” and have become what Rolling Stone journal as soon as referred to as a “live act simply without peer.”

Decades later, a band that Bono typically says started with solely “three chords and the truth” has gone on to win 22 Grammys, greater than some other duo or group.

The members of U2 in an undated photo, from left: The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr. and Bono.

Part of the band’s success comes from their familiarity with the American songbook. Many of their hottest songs replicate a deep information of American rock music, gospel and blues. It was U2, not an American artist, who wrote a stirring tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., with their music, “Pride (In The Name of Love).”

In “Surrender,” Bono pays tribute to America itself. Some European bands dreaded touring the South and the Midwest, dismissing the areas as uninteresting and unsophisticated. But Bono says U2 grew to like these elements of the US, “feeling the common decency of people who placed a high value on conservative themes like good manners and self-reliance, even though many held political views very different from our own.”

He quotes from the Declaration of Independence, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s well-known 1933 inaugural tackle (“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”) and cites the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Bono expresses a perception and optimism in America that many Americans now not share.

He says America is constructed on “an idea.” It’s a spot that “offers grace for every welcome that is sought” from across the globe. He’s amplified this notion on his present e book tour, saying at one cease, “America is a song still being written.”

Bono speaks at the 2012 Global Social Enterprise Initiative Event at Georgetown University on November 12, 2012, in Washington.

In a 2012 speech at Georgetown University, Bono gave maybe his most detailed description of what America means to him. He stated:

“Ireland’s a great country, but it’s not an idea. Great Britain’s a great country, it’s not an idea. That’s how we see you around the world, as one of the greatest ideas in human history – right up there with the Renaissance, right up there with crop rotations and the Beatles’ White album. The idea, the American idea … that you and me are created equal. And God love you for it, because these aren’t just American ideas anymore. There’s no copyright on them. You brought them into the world…These truths, your truths, they’re self-evident in us.”

Bono reminds readers that America has lengthy had a legendary maintain on the Irish. He says many Irish folks glowed with satisfaction when John Fitzgerald Kennedy grew to become the nation’s first Irish Catholic President and had been astonished when the US grew to become the primary nation to place a person on the moon.

“Before transatlantic flights, when Irish people left their homes to go to America, it was like a death,” Bono writes. “They would never be seen again. And yet they would be reborn in this land of promise.”

Politics is now seen by many Americans as a winner-take-all contest. There is not any center floor. No purpose to compromise.

Some of that is fueled by a harmful distortion of Christian religion. A rising variety of Americans —virtually half the nation, in keeping with one latest survey — now say the US was based as a Christian nation and that there needs to be no separation between church and state. Some even say that violence is justified in defending this imaginative and prescient of America.

Bono and U2 perform in Belfast, Ireland, in 1982.

But Bono gives one other mannequin for what number of Americans can follow politics and religion.

He comes from a rustic the place hundreds of individuals died as a result of they might not discover compromise on faith and politics.

He grew up in Ireland throughout a time when the northern a part of the nation cut up over whether or not it ought to stay within the United Kingdom or develop into unbiased. This disagreement, fanned by tensions between Protestants and Catholics, led to an explosion of violence between 1968 and 1998 that left greater than 3,500 folks lifeless. Many victims had been civilians, maimed or killed by automotive bombs and different types of violence in what grew to become referred to as “the Troubles.”

This fractious historical past impressed him to undertake a private mantra: “Compromise is a costly word. No compromise even more so.”

Bono testifies about AIDS programs before the US Senate Appropriations Committee in May 2004 in Washington.

When Bono describes the “religious apartheid” that divided his nation, it’s the one place within the e book the place he shows anger. He tears into paramilitary teams in Ireland that used violence and spiritual grievances to hurt civilians within the identify of freedom. He additionally recounts how he narrowly averted turning into the sufferer of such a bombing at some point.

He was raised by his father, Brendan Robert, a Catholic, and his mom, Iris, a Protestant, in an setting that disdained non secular intolerance. He attended one among Ireland’s first nondenominational secondary faculties, the place college students had been taught to worth non secular range. It’s additionally the place he met his spouse, Alison, with whom he shares 4 kids.

Bono and wife Ali Hewson attend a Special Olympics party at the Clarence Hotel on June 21, 2003, in Dublin, Ireland.

The classes Bono realized in class about non secular intolerance have carried into his profession. In July 2005, throughout a live performance in Berlin, Bono denounced Islamic extremists who had lately detonated bombs throughout London, killing 52 folks and wounding tons of.

He donned a scarf bearing the phrase “Coexist,” which included a Christian cross, a Star of David, and an Islamic crescent.

“Jesus, Jew, Mohammad, it’s true. All sons of Abraham,” he chanted from the stage, pointing to the symbols to plead for non secular tolerance throughout a time of struggle – a gesture he repeated all through the tour.

Bono has additionally had a dramatic affect offstage, by way of his activism. He was a pacesetter in Jubilee 2000, a profitable marketing campaign that led to the cancellation of greater than $100 billion in debt owed by poor nations. He co-founded sister organizations ONE and (RED) to battle in opposition to excessive poverty and the unfold of HIV/AIDS in creating nations.

Many rock star memoirs recount going from sold-out arenas to trashed resort rooms. Bono describes assembly politicians and philanthropists in a “world of suits and sandwiches and fluorescent lamps.” He flourished in that new area due to his capacity to achieve settlement with all method of leaders.

Irish rocker Bono, lead singer of U2, poses with schoolchildren  in the Soweto township outside Johannesburg, South Africa, in May 2002.

For instance, Bono persuaded Senator Jesse Helms, the conservative US senator who opposed making King’s birthday a nationwide vacation and had referred to as AIDS “the gay disease,” to offer funding to fight the AIDS disaster in Africa.

How’d he do it? Bono says he discovered frequent floor with Helms by invoking tales about how lepers had been handled within the Bible. He says the analogy diminished to Helms to tears.

“The search for common ground starts with a search for higher ground,” Bono writes within the memoir. “Even with your opponents. Especially with your opponents. A lightbulb moment for me and a conviction that’s informed my life as a campaigner ever since. The simple but profound idea that you don’t have to agree on everything if the one thing you do agree on is important enough.”

Bono in 2022:

U2 followers have lengthy speculated about Bono’s non secular beliefs. Near the top of his memoir, he defines himself as a flawed however real “follower of Christ who can’t keep up.”

“I hold to the line attributed to Francis of Assisi, who told his followers, ‘Go into the world to preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words,’ ” he says.

That sentiment may sound like a platitude from a wealthy rock star. But at a time when the US is experiencing its personal Troubles — a harmful escalation of political and civic strife — these phrases could also be simply what many Americans want to listen to.

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