I came across this past Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast being rerun on CSPAN this morning and was treated to the awkward juxtaposition of President Bush speaking immediately following Bono.
What struck me most powerfully, though, was not so much the awkwardness of it as the uniqueness. The most unusual thing one can hear coming out of Washington, it seems, is different, really different people talking about listening to each other, working in positive compromise, and acknowledging the good that even their apparent political opponents are doing, while still calling for more to be done.
That's what I heard during parts of the president's (otherwise generally uninspiring) State of the Union address on Tuesday night. It is exactly that, though, which I've also heard since then accounting for the cynical, non-listening, non-compromising, un-nice and way too predictable responses the president's political opponents have given to the speech. I've heard more than one commentator say that while the President began by talking about the need to and successes of working together across so-called party lines, it wasn't long before he also chastised anyone who expressed disagreement through defeatism. Critics said this showed that he was even more uncompromising and unwilling to listen to opposing opinions. I, however, heard a truthful admonition to express differing (let's say alternative, not opposing) perspectives on solving problems which focus on solving (not reiterating or exacerbating) the problems!
If the fundamental difference between the politics of the Republicans and the politics of the Democrats comes down to the latter pushing to spend more money to solve social problems than the former, then it would look like Bono's politics fell pretty clearly on the Democratic side (pushing to increase American federal aid to "the least of these" in the world by one percent). Yet, he stood up in a room of mixed political (and mixed religious) affiliations, and listed off the positive changes the Bush administration has made in world relief aid funding over the years. And he gently (it seemed to me) said there is more to be done and given. That's the most positive political rhetoric (if still, albeit, political). If you can't say something nice, don't jeer and smirk and dismiss any possible positive word or deed coming from "the other side."
Throughout last year's U2 tour, every evening, in every diverse city where the band played, Bono acknowledged from the stage - in grateful, positive, reinforcing language - that city or region's political leaders, and encouraged both them and his audience to do more to pursue justice for the hungry and sick. The ugliest moment I experienced in my two sublime shows, was a segment of the audience boo-ing when Bono praised John Kerry in attendance in Boston.
Enough of the other sides, already! You all know I didn't vote for Bush. And I didn't vote for John Kerry. But, I did vote in the last presidential election. I voted for a change in the seemingly vicious cycle of the two-party system.
We don't all have to agree. I'm glad we have Mark and Barnabas and Paul in Acts to clarify that. We do need to give peace a chance and encourage responsible, positive choices by acknowledging those that've been made while pointing out the next opportunities or needs. And we really need to stop being so lazy as to see the world (and individuals) through party-colored glasses which bring out the catty and defeatist.
So, well done Bono, well done Bush, and well done Coretta Scott King.