I will admit, prior to early 2001 I had no idea who Aung San Suu Kyi was let alone how to even pronounce her name. I was younger then and did not consume the amount of news that I do today. Even still, it took a vehicle of popular culture to educate me about this marvelous woman.
The year 2001 was when I finally bought U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind. It was a record that furiously reignited my love for the band after what was for me the doldrums of Zooropa and Pop. On that 2000 release was a song called "Walk On." In the record's liner notes, the song was dedicated to Suu Kyi and the Free Burma movement. Inspired, I decided to do a bit of research to find out just what was meant by that.
Aung San Suu Kyi was the rightfully elected leader of Myanmar, known colloquially as Burma to much of the world. A military junta brought an end to her administration and the army generals placed her under house arrest. She remained confined to her home for the greater part of 21 years. During all that time, she never once wavered in her dedication to a free Burma through peaceful resolution. Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her perseverance. "Walk On" indeed. Moved by this, I joined Amnesty International in a letter writing campaign to help facilitate her release. I harbored no grandiose visions that even this slippery-tongued son of a bitch could make all that much of a difference, but I wanted to do something. I'm a writer, so I decided to write.
Just yesterday, Aung San Suu Kyi was finally released from house arrest after the junta bowed to diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions. While the notion of house arrest sounds just dandy to a recluse like me, I cannot fathom what it must have been like for her and all the sacrifices she must have made, not the least of which was deciding to stay in Burma as a symbol of hope to her people instead of traveling to London to be with her dying husband. And I think I've got it bad. Yeah, right. She should also stand as a cautionary tale to every other democracy of the world. Think a police state couldn't happen to you? Even in the good ol' U.S. of A.? Don't be so sure.
As for Bono and the boys, I ultimately feel no shame about being schooled by a rock song. It's just another example of why I love U2 and why the band is so magical, especially in comparison to their peers both past and present. You don't just rock out to the music, you learn about the world. And maybe if you do a bit of thinking, you can figure out how to go about changing it.
To anyone else who is suffering, be it from a personal situation of entrapment or political oppression, "Walk On."
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