The Mix

Bono shames the Prez

A Muslim, a Jew and a rock star walk into a bar… I mean, the national prayer breakfast.
This year's National Prayer Breakfast came and went with little fanfare on Feb. 2 because, I presume, most of us don't have the stomach anymore for Dubya's predictable and nauseating lip service to compassion, tolerance and faith.

But this year's event was actually worth watching simply for the curiosity of it. The typical Jesus crowd (the event is hosted by the evangelical Fellowship Foundation) gave some room at the pulpit for Muslims, Jews… and a rock star. The prayer breakfast was co-chaired for the first time in history by a Jew -- Sen. Norm Coleman. And the keynote address was given by King Abdullah II of Jordan, marking the first time a Muslim head-of-state spoke at the prayer breakfast. The highlight of the event, however, was a speech by U2's Bono.

Bono, a vigorous advocate for fighting AIDS in Africa, delivered something of a public shaming of America. After giving brief praise of U.S. aid to Africa, he launched into a critique of the U.S. government's lip service to justice and equality:
"This is not about charity, it's about justice. And that's too bad. Because we're good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can't afford it.
But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, and it questions our commitment.
Six and a half thousand Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity; this is about justice and equality.
Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we would not let it happen anywhere else. If we really accepted that Africans are equal to us ... Look at what happened in South East Asia with the tsunami. 150,000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature." Well, in Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe…"
Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.
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