My sweetie and I went to the U2 concert this past Friday night. It was an awesome experience, despite the acoustics of the US Bank stadium, which were a bit lacking for such a concert. (Fortunately he was prepared and gave me earplugs in advance which cut down significantly on the musical distortion of the speakers.) What fascinated me most were the visual elements added to the show, the imagery used and the political elements of his message.
Granted, Bono’s music has always contained an element of social critique (many artists I respect have this in common) but this was more than I expected. For me, it was a welcome addition to what I had expected would just be an entertaining night of rock and roll.
Bono commented that he had been one the “dreamers” in this country, the immigrants who want nothing more than to participate in the ideals of America, the freedoms we have come to enjoy, the opportunities that draw people here. In light of this week’s news on the President’s announcement regarding the intention to replace the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, we know what this commentary intended to convey. The faces used in the videos were diverse in age, national origin, race, and gender. The montage of the women painting the U.S. flag while at the same time showing a woman in a flag bikini with a lasso to me conveyed the contradictions in our national symbolism. There is complexity and messiness in a land of 50 states unified by an idea, by a commitment to a set of ideals, some of which have been challenged in our recent political milieu.
The concert also featured a historical compilation of women and faces of our history. Bono commented on the necessity for women to rise up, with the men that are in their lives as well, and to claim the power that they rightfully have. While I am paraphrasing his words, the impact they had on me was visceral. Here is a feminist artist, using the power of his stature and popularity to speak on issues that matter to him, and to so many of us. The video background had a quote about the power of the people not being in the hands of the people in power. It is all true, and something we forget at times, when our major media trains all of our eyes on the troll-elect and the legislators that fight with him. Granted, we must pay attention but we lose sight of where the real power is, in every day people and every day acts of bravery and conscience that we all face.
As a feminist I believe in equality of the sexes in political, economic and social terms. I know that as women, we must stand up for these principles. But I know that we are not alone in this, men and women but stand up, must insist that we can do better. This country can do better. Or as Paul Wellstone loved to point out: “we all do better when all do better.” This is more true today than ever, when our globally-connected world makes sure that the fact of humankind and indeed the planet is ever more dependent on acting in harmony and acting out of mutual, rather than self-centered interest.
It troubles me that so many women, so many immigrants, so many people of color, so many who do not fit the “norm” of the dominant culture do not feel safe. On the flip side, I try mightily to empathize with a white family in middle America that sees their schools and infrastructure crumbling, and at the same time sees many more brown faces in their communities, they feel insecure. They do not know what is happening in their world. While they may not see that their schools would possibly close without these young immigrants arriving, or that many of the jobs these families are doing are helping to bolster the fragile economies of their towns, they are also struggling. When I read Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance last year, it really helped me see this more clearly. Both political parties in this country have ignored for far too long the needs of working-class Americans.
What if we challenge the idea that it is “us against them?” What if we strove to find the commonalities between people? What if we emphasized the shared goals we all have for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? In what ways might we come together toward a better world, toward a country where people did not have to fear the future, but instead could see how our unity is our strength?
To me, what feminism brings is a way to acknowledge the value of ALL people, of all contributions and all that is precious in this world. It is in the process of inclusion and inviting more balanced representation in our political discourse and politics that we transcend the limits of our current reality. We challenge the limits of our imagination when we consider what is possible, and work together toward a better future. She moves in mysterious ways, and indeed, she (America) moves us to consider how we might be a part of re-imagining some better world that serves us, instead of dividing us.