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  • "I'd love to change the world
    But I don't know what to do
    So I leave it up to you..."

    (Alvin Lee, Ten Years After, from "I'd Love to Change the World")

    Half-racked prejudice leaped forth
    "Rip down all hate," I screamed
    Lies that life is black and white
    Spoke from my skull, I dreamed
    Romantic facts of musketeers
    Foundationed deep, somehow
    Ah, but I was so much older then
    I'm younger than that now.

    A self-ordained professor's tongue
    Too serious to fool
    Spouted out that liberty
    Is just equality in school
    "Equality," I spoke the word
    As if a wedding vow
    Ah, but I was so much older then
    I'm younger than that now.

    In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand
    At the mongrel dogs who teach
    Fearing not that I'd become my enemy
    In the instant that I preach
    My existence led by confusion boats
    Mutiny from stern to bow
    Ah, but I was so much older then
    I'm younger than that now.

    Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
    Too noble to neglect
    Deceived me into thinking
    I had something to protect
    Good and bad, I define these terms
    Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
    Ah, but I was so much older then
    I'm younger than that now.

    (Excerpts from “My Back Pages” – Bob Dylan)

    I’m thinking this morning about Bono and Jesse Helms. I’m also thinking about Nelson Mandela and the Springboks. And, yes, Bob Dylan and the self-righteous folkie crowd, who had just crowned him Prince of the righteous lefty Preachers. It’s so easy to look at those who fit neatly into our stereotypes of what is wrong with the world, point the finger of judgement, and fire away at their “ignorance”. Too easy. In the moment we do this, we become part of the problem, like it or not. We all hold a personal responsibility for the world as it is. It’s not “them”. If there is to be peace in the world, best believe it begins with me.
  • If one truly wants to change the world, one must find a way to reach the “ignorant”, where they live, and instead of pointing the finger and firing the judgements their way, which only fans the flames higher and causes them, in self defense, to want to fire back. Bono could have done that with Jesse Helms. Mandela could have done that with the Springboks. But, they both chose a different route.

    Helms was the chair of the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. A charter Southern Conservative Republican Reaganite, faithful follower of the man who would not even say the word “AIDS” for years as the nation’s leader in the 80’s, when some early-on, timely financial funding and consciousness-raising could have nipped that terrible plague in the bud, or at least found a way to manage it years sooner than we did. Yet, in the late 90’s when Bono was looking to help stem the tide of the scourge in Africa, instead of sitting back and saying, “Hell, we’ll never get anything out of the U.S. Congress – look at who’s at the helm of their Foreign Relations Committee – none other than Helms, that icon of southern conservatism bibile belt bullshit”. He could have done that. And bitched about Helms and the U.S. and looked elsewhere, end of story. That would have been easy. But, he chose a different route. He reached out to Helms. He went and talked to him. Mano-a-mano. Human being to human being. And they began a dynamic duo. A lot of aid went from the U.S. to African countries to help stop AIDS, as a result. One might argue how much actually got to its destination, and how much it helped, and I don’t know about all of that. All I know is, Bono rose above his own impulse to judgement and took a risk, and reached out.

    Everyone probably knows the story, or saw the movie, about Mandela and the Springboks. Mandela, newly elected president of South Africa, could easily have struck down the Springboks, disbanded them, as they were a symbol of white rule in South Africa, a rule under which he’d spent nearly 30 years in prison. As a black man, the first black man elected president in that country, all of his advisors wanted him to strike down the Springboks. But, Mandela had a higher purpose in mind. He wanted national unity. He knew that whites had this great fear that the blacks, now in power, would wipe them out, destroy all that they loved and that had meaning for them in their country. Mandela saw the potential for harnessing support for the Springboks into a unifying theme for national pride in the new South Africa. Forget the past. It’s dead and gone. He saw a vision of a new world, and he rose above his own, and his party’s, righteous indignation towards the symbol of the vile treatment they had suffered under White Rule, took a huge political risk and achieved what many thought could never happen. National unity and pride in a new South Africa.
  • Dylan and the folkies? Well, Bob just couldn’t buy into their agenda of self-righteous preaching, which he actually indulged in himself for a couple of years, and as brilliant a songwriter as he was, quickly became their chosen one, and was being thrust into an unwanted role of “spokesperson for the generation”. Bob just wouldn’t buy that bullshit. “”I’m just a song and dance man”, he fired back. And he went on about his business, writing songs, and growing personally, going through the changes that we all must go through, and writing the most interesting songs about the process. He rocked. They hated him for it. He didn’t care. He followed his own voice. Yeah, he did his share of preaching in the process, but he usually caught himself and reeled it in. He was, is, so human like that. He just never could stand comfortably on that pedestal that so many tried to put him up on. That’s why he appeals to me so much. Just a song and dance man.
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