The release of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung Suu Kyi yesterday after spending 15 of the past 21 years in prison or under house arrest was thrilling, uplifting. Pressure on the Burmese government came from many angles, economic, diplomatic. And from the voices of people around the world lifted in song.
One cannot discount or ignore the power of that rock n roll played in Suu Kyi’s release. Over decades U2 has championed human rights, specifically through Amnesty International. For their monumental, astounding super-gianormous 360 Degrees tour which began in 2009 and continues through 2011, U2 staged a specific tribute to Aung Suu Kyi and Amnesty International during the song “Walk On,” recounting her history as the democratically elected leader of Burma (Myanmar) and then as a prisoner of the military which took control of the country. (wonder what they’ll do now for that part of the show?)
Weird side note: In his book Decision Points, George W. Bush recounts how he met with Bono to discuss financial aid for Third World countries. The twoo had a great chat, and after Bono left, one of his staff asked if he knew who Bono was. Bush said that of course he did — he was the rock star who
used to be married to Cher.
U2′s 360 Degree tour set attendance records; in 2009 the show was seen by over 3 million people; the 2010 has been equally as well received. That’s a lot of people around signing postcards for Amnesty’s campaign to free Suu Kyi.
Amnesty International has storied history in Ireland; one the NGO’s founding members, Sean MacBride, was the son of Irish revolutionary–and muse of William Butler Yeats–Maud Gonne and Major John MacBride who was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Uprising which led to the Republic of Ireland’s independence from England.
At 15, Sean MacBride joined the Irish Volunteers and was imprisoned in 1921. Released in 1924, he studied law and eventually became an Irish politician, and worked throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s for human rights worldwide. MacBride was appointed to number of positions at the United Nations including Assistant Secretary General, President of the General Assembly, High Commissioner for Refugees and High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Yeah, rock ‘n roll changed something in world. Well, many things.