An Open Letter To Bono Re: Debt Relief
The News Dissector has a request for your upcoming special edition of VANITY FAIR: Link the growing debt burden of Americas and the better-known debt problems in Africa.
Bono is in the news. (When is he not?) This time, the world's great rocker is being named to edit a special edition of the VANITY FAIR, the gliteratti magazine that influences our national buzz machine and cultural zeitgeist. One of his stated missions is to offer compelling non-stereotyped stories about the fight against AIDS and for debt relief in Africa that compassion fatigued Americans will tune in to.
As he reaches out to touch an American nerve, I am reaching out to touch his. I am doing so in the spirit of Nelson Mandela, with whom I did five films, and who once surprised me at a press event by staring right at me and asking-with a big smile-"Remember Me?" I know Bono remembers me. In fact we were both at Mandela's big anti-AIDS concert in Cape Town some years back. I was filming it; he was starring in it. We had a long talk.
Our first encounter took place many years earlier. It was also South Africa related, but well before Mandela helped free South Africa. It was at one of the last recording sessions for the anti-apartheid record "Sun City" that I was helping to produce back in 1985. We were in the basement of a now shuttered famous studio in the Village, the one Jimi Hendrix once owned. Musician Little Steven Van Zandt invited Bono there to sing on the project. Not only did he agree, but he was inspired to contribute an original song,
He created and did a solo rendition of a song called "Silver and Gold" which brilliantly put the apartheid crisis in an economic context, making the connection between all the suffering in that country and its great wealth and exploitation in its mines. He understood then how important it was to challenge financial power. In fact, it was the sanctions campaign, of which Sun City was a part, that helped bring down that racist system.
Bono went on to become a high-profile champion of Africa, as an artist, diplomat, lobbyist and negotiator. His eloquence, celebrity and Irish "moxie" enabled him to confront the rich and powerful from a mountain top in Davos to the General Assembly of the UN, from an outhouse in the bush of an impoverished African country to The White House and Congress, not to mention the stage of his sold out concerts and on every TV network. He has pushed, persuaded, cajoled, charmed and maneuvered the likes of Bill Gates, George Bush, and even Jesse Helms, to support debt relief and the fight against AIDS. He is a passionate campaigner. No one can say no to him.
And that's why I am writing to him/you now. If you want to get Americans to show solidarity with Africa, show some solidarity with them. Lets make the issue of Debt Relief in America part of the global fight for economic independence in our interdependent world.
True, the impoverished former colonies of the Third World have it worse, with many sick and hungry people living in dire poverty, often on $2 a day. But suffering is relative and often causes the same misery, disease and despair where ever you go. Ask the homeless in America. Read about our own pervasive and growing poverty. You know there is a festering and neglected third world in the innards of every "rich" country.
And don't stop there.
Look at the millions who are trapped in a debt they will never escape from, almost like modern serfs. Read about all the outsourced jobs, the closed auto plants, the wave of foreclosures as the housing bubble bursting, the credit card crunch, the rise in bankruptcies, the students leaving college with an average $40, 000 in loans, and the billions in outrageous interest rates and all kinds of fees. This does not just impact the poor but increasingly the middle class and even those who felt it could never affect them.
Predatory lending is not just an African problem. It is global.
The press is predicting, "More pain is on the way" as big banks falter and the scandalous "Subprime" lending sector-recently considered the "hottest" in the industry-implodes. The bankers and economic wise men who have been denying any problem are singing another tune now as the stock market melts down and the underlying problems of consumer and government debt are seen as the threat they are.
A problem of personal security is becoming an issue of national security and global insecurity. In many cases, the same banks, investment houses and hedge funds are profiting off of the anguish of untold millions in every country.
So Bono, please find some space in your Vanity Fair issue to make it about more than vanity with ads for the affluent and photo spreads of the rich and sexy. Let's tie the issues together for American readers and African "victims" by recognizing our common humanity and the need to find common ground in fighting shared problems.
Linking the growing debt burden of Americans-and the better-known debt problems in Africa is a start.
We are working on this issue now and need your help. We have created a campaign called AMERICANS FOR DEBT RELIEF NOW (Stopthesqueeze.org) and are promoting a film called IN DEBT WE TRUST (Indebtwetrust.com) to raise pubic awareness. We are reaching out to give a massive, but invisible, problem more visibility and a sense of urgency.
In the name of love, Bono, and our shared values and common beliefs, will you help us get the word out on this effort, support us as we support you, and make the issue and promise of global economic justice a reality?
Let me know if you will help!
- Danny Schechter, News Dissector Danny Schechter edits MediaChannel.org. Comments to Dissector@mediachannel.org