How U2 Betrayed Rock ’N’ Roll

U2 supports repeal of Ireland’s strong pro-life constitutional provision, which will allow for abortion.

U2 has settled so determinedly into the mainstream of contemporary rock culture that it has now finally waived the role of re-evangelizing the music’s sacred roots, and is accordingly all but redundant. Once a band uniquely capable of standing against the seduction of the material, U2 has become indistinguishable from the herd it has latterly so assiduously courted, volunteering for enslavement to fashion, cool, and emptiness.

 

On May 25 Ireland will decide whether to repeal or retain the Eighth Amendment of our Constitution, which recognizes the equal right to life of mother and unborn child. As the date approaches, we are hearing all the elaborate genteelisms and justifications. Only those deluded by hypnotic propaganda—and those who do not care about consequences—can really, truly buy in. “Repeal” is about empowering the strong over the weak, the strident and demanding over the silent and docile.

And yet, I was not surprised that U2 came out for Repeal. It was only a matter of time. The world’s loudest folk band has been heading in that direction for years, its early truth-telling gradually giving way to a jostling for liberal kudos. In 2015, U2 backed another Irish referendum, supporting the bogus idea of gay marriage. As far as they’re concerned, May 25 is just the next step on the continuum of progressiveness.

Yet, the horror I felt on hearing of the band’s support for child murder was not caused so much by what they said as by how they said it. On May 2, they posted on Instagram and tweeted a graphic created by the trendy Maser design firm showing the phrase “Repeal the 8th” squeezed into a love heart, the word “Repeal” writ large in what might be the faintest parody of a baby waiting in a womb: love pregnant with death. Death by euphemism, death by choking with weasel word, death made up to look like life: Repeal.

This was a stance geared for newspapers that refer to U2 as “rockers.” Hours before the start of their US tour, U2 made headlines by breaking the hearts of at least half their fans. It was the tritest thing, a gesture empty, dismal, and unworthy of a formerly sincere and thoughtful group, which used to brood and feel with its followers but now just follows the cool parade.

Edge, the band’s guitarist and spokesman in its most shameful hour, emerged to say almost nothing, and yet far too much. As though wanting to have it both ways, he said that, although he would be voting Yes, he understood “why people might have a problem with that.”

He told the Sun: “I think we acknowledged that it’s a very emotive issue.”

To the Irish Mirror he declared: “It’s huge and there is this huge divergence of opinion and it’s very emotive and I accept that and it is hard to take a stance without having to acknowledge there’s another side to it, but I’m for it—I support Repeal. It’s the smart thing to do.”

The smart thing to do. Like a shrewd investment tip, a word to the wise. Spoken like a man terrified to look a tabloid hack in the eye and utter a principled sentence.

Fans were bereft. One tweeted: “This breaks my heart. I have loved and followed you for 20 years. I still love you but I can’t follow you down this road. My tickets to upcoming shows will go unused.”

Many fans have deplored a once avowedly Christian band coming out for abortion, but the problem is not so much with some offense against their once shameless Christianity. The relationship between Christ and rock ’n’ roll is paradoxical at best, and there is no debt of justice to be assumed in either direction. U2’s real offence is a betrayal of the very roots of the music itself.

A friend of mine says that rock ’n’ roll is purely about sex, whereas I’ve always wanted to think it the music of existential truth and justice. There’s truth in both positions. Rock ’n’ roll is the offspring of the Blues. The generic modern Western rock offshoot is a prodigal son who has long since surrendered to a false sense of freedom and a vacuous ideological program.

The Blues were born in the plantations where slaves in chains worked themselves unto early deaths, hollering out to their brothers over each other’s heads on the line, their cries becoming chants, forming songs, unleashing a music that nobody could have imagined or predicted.

To say that abortion is the slavery of the present is more than rhetoric, because each of the two in its way involves the purchasing of the convenience of one with the life of another. It is never about compassion, or health, or freedom of any kind worth the name, these being just weasel-worded pretexts. In the reality of its everyday existence, abortion is about spilling blood for money, about stamping out innocent but inopportune lives, about pretending there is no judgment, about the white death rising from smokestacks on the horizon, alien clouds with streaks of human in them.

And abortion will go the way of slavery also, when medical science identifies the child’s earliest susceptibility to pain, and posterity will look back in horror at this present moment and every shred of our reputation for human feeling will be in the dumpster of history.

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