No Bono, Ireland Didn’t Just Make ‘Love the Highest Law of the Land’
In voting in same-sex marriage, the Irish made adult passion the highest law of the land — at the expense of children.
“This is not very punk rock,” U2 frontman Bono admitted to the sellout crowd at the Forum just before launching into a song written for Iris, his mother whom he lost in his teens. He’s right. U2 was decidedly not punk rock on this night, the first of a six-show run in Los Angeles for their new tour, Innocence+Experience. But it isn’t, as he seems to think, because the first half of the show is retrospective and sentimental.
You know what it means when a punk rock quartet from Dublin pours all their outrage and energy into … the most popular, comfortable and safest of safe causes? It means the punk is long gone, and its absence has nothing to do with sentimental songs. This has been the case with U2 for some time: they play things pretty safely (that is, smartly). Very few people are going to object in principle to helping mothers and babies with HIV or attempting to eradicate poverty in the third world. On Tuesday night U2 added another wildly popular cause to the list: same-sex marriage.
Praising the recent referendum to legalize same-sex marriage in Ireland, Bono exclaimed that the Irish had “made love the highest law of the land.” It was a clever shoehorn of one of their most popular lyrics (from their song, “One”) into the situation, but it happens to be untrue. The Irish did no such thing for all kinds of people who, unlike the gay movement, have no lobbyists, money, politicians or rock stars to carry their water for them. Unless Ireland has now defined sexual deviancy out of existence and polygamy, incest and bestiality are now acceptable, there’s a whole lot of “love” not (yet) recognized as the highest law in the land.
And, sadly, there is one kind of love explicitly dethroned as the law of the land, the love most important for societal well-being: love between children and their parents — the kind of love Bono had ironically just expressed to his late mother. Ireland has, in fact, declared that children have no natural or legal right to be bonded to their mother and father because one or the other will always, by definition, be absent in such unions.
Bono should have said, “Adult passion is now the highest law of the land — at the expense of children, if necessary.” That doesn’t have quite the same heart-warming rhetorical effect, but it has the advantage of being true.
From this celebration of same-sex marriage, the band immediately launched into their smash hit “Pride (In the Name of Love).” The song is as fresh and lively as the day it first appeared almost 30 years ago, and their rendition was, as we’ve come to expect, awe-inspiring. But the subtle transition is disturbing. “Pride” is about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Civil Rights movement. What R.R. Reno of First Things calls “The Selma Analogy” has now explicitly been made by four of the world’s most influential pop icons.
To merge sexual liberation into the civil-rights movement dramatically raises the stakes in public debate. The Selma analogy makes traditional views of sexual morality as noxious as racism, and in so doing encourages progressives to adopt something like a total-war doctrine. The implication is that people who hold such views should have no voice in American society and that homosexuality should be aggressively affirmed in our public and private institutions, while dissent is punished.
It didn’t take the gift of prophecy for Reno to make that observation, but even if it did he has easily been vindicated. A California CEO has been forced to resign, a Washington florist possibly bankrupted, a New Mexico photographer fined, a Colorado baker ordered to “re-education” training, and an Indiana pizza parlor nearly put out of business, with much, much more to come. For me, at least, this sucked all of the air out of their following rendition of “One.” Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry have always promoted a vision of peace, love and unity in their concerts. On Tuesday night I wondered: does that vision include anyone who doesn’t tow the popular party line?
And since when did punk rock toe the party line? Or better: who is the “Man” punk rockers are sticking it to? The gay community is the most powerful special interest group in the Western world — measured in terms of outsized influence. Two or three percent of the American population has a virtual monopoly on most major cultural power centers, including media, entertainment, academia, politics and the law, to the point where the editorial board of the New York Times waves away as self-evidently “absurd” all concerns about the social and cultural importance of biological ties between parents and children. So affluent are many of them that they can afford to rent Indian wombs to implant with eggs purchased for a hefty sum from Harvard sorority girls. Hardly as sympathetic as U2’s usual versions of the downtrodden and oppressed.
The world has no shortage of truly oppressed at the moment. It is well-nigh amazing that the band should choose the pet issue de jour of the popular, powerful and well-connected at a time when untold thousands are displaced, kidnapped, raped and beheaded by ISIS throughout the Middle East. Not a word about any of that from Bono’s pulpit on Tuesday night.
U2’s new show is built around their transition from the innocence of their early punk era to the maturity of experience. As much as it pains me to say as one of U2’s greatest fans, if experience means parroting the demands of a well-heeled elite with barely disguised totalitarian impulses, the ultimate punk insult comes to mind: “Sell-outs.”