In 1992, Sinead O’Conner appeared as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. During her final number, she sang a version of Bob Marley’s song “War”, changing his lyrics about racial injustice to words of child sexual abuse. She then held up a photo of the current pope, and while ripping it said, “fight the real enemy”.
Obscure as her message was, no one made the effort to find out what it was she meant by her comment and action.
Instead, she was vilified. Protested against. Booed off stages. Verbally abused. Records destroyed. Music banned from radio stations.
Never mind the fact that the first recorded request for freedom of speech was in 1523, for those times were archaic.
Never mind the fact that America thought freedom of speech was so important during the time of its declaration of independence the founding fathers saw fit to put it as the First Amendment to the Constitution, for Ms O’Connor is not an American citizen.
Never mind the fact that the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that freedom of speech is the concept of the inherent human right to voice one’s opinion publicly without fear of censorship or punishment, as that organization had enough to worry about elsewhere.
Let us mind the fact that 10 year later, the first of the scandals revealing the sexual abuse of children by priests, and the cover up of these abuses by the church, finally hit the news.
Let us mind the fact of how many children were abused in a 30-40 year period, and how many of those children were betrayed again, when those abuses were covered up.
Let us mind the fact of how many children could have been protected from those particular horrors in the ensuing 10-year period after Ms O’Connor’s SNL appearance if those that found fit to vilify, protest, and boo had granted her that basic of human rights, freedom of speech, and added to that their own freedom of thought.
Three years ago, another musical band was vilified, protested against, banned, booed and threatened for the comment (made while on tour), “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.”
Two days later, while their CDs were being burned in barrels at rallies across the United States, radio stations were pulling their music off the air and concerts were being cancelled, a statement was posted on the band’s website saying, in part, “…While we support our troops, there is nothing more frightening than the notion of going to war with Iraq and the prospect of all the innocent lives that will be lost.”
That America was caught up in a patriotic fervor first ignited by the “boot in your ass” vengeance mentality.
Let us now mind the fact that American, Coalition Forces and innocent civilians are being killed or maimed in an (alleged) attempt to bring democracy and the most basic of human rights to a land while those same rights were denied to those who did not agree.
It’s a sad sad story
That a mother will teach her daughter
That she ought’a hate a perfect stranger.
And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Saying that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over.
Natalie, I don’t blame you.