Wednesday, October 13, 2004

DATA: The One Campaign

I'm guessing most of you have heard about the crusade that Bono of U2 has been on lately to raise awareness about AIDS and poverty in Africa. I have to be honest, when his efforts first hit the media I was a little skeptical of his motives and sincerity. I think part of it was the fact that he sported his ridiculous sunglasses even in photo-ops with government and public officials. I wondered how much of it was just another example of unquenchable celebrity/rock-star ego trips and attention craving. Still, I guess I figured even if his motives were not totally altruistic, at least he was using his enormous popularity and influence in a positive way.

My perception of what this crusade is all about changed dramatically a couple of weeks ago. Of all places, I caught him on Bill O'Reilly's show at the Republican Convention. He talked about how much good has been accomplished already and how much potential exists to do much more. He discussed the pleasantly-surprising allies he has established in the organization's (DATA - Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) efforts - such as Jesse Helms, who have lobbied Congress and the President strongly for increased aid to Africa. He then when into a spiel, that I must confess, moved me. He was literally pleading with viewers to write their legislators and join up with DATA's efforts to quelch the AIDS crisis in Africa. Whether Bono started this whole quest altruistically or not, he is appears nothing but sincere now that he has spent extensive time and effort in Africa. He talked about his gratefulness to President Bush for agreeing to increase AIDS aid to Africa (even though the increase fell immensely short of requests), even in small steps. He then, instead of criticizing Bush or America (which he could have easily done) for it's relatively light contribution to solving the crisis, went on to talk about how great America can be. He passionately asserted that this is America's prime opportunity to restore unity in the world and show it's greatness and leadership again (as it has done many times in the past). He asked viewers to imagine the consequences if America addresses and leads the world in ending the AIDS/Poverty crisis, a crisis with consequences for all of us, and leads in restoring unity and greatness in a moral cause that every human can get behind. He emphasized that, while daunting, such accomplishments are closer within our reach than most realize.

A couple times O'Reilly tried to stir the pot with comments about impossibility and idealism. Bono didn't bite. He just continued impassionately pleading, on the verge of becoming emotional, for us to get behind this effort and save those children. He even had O'Reilly into it by the time he was done. I'm telling you, it was persuasive. The guy seemed purely sincere and completely engulfed and overtaken is this cause. I think he just may be on to something. Not only is coming to the aid of our suffering brothers and sisters the right thing to do, but it could serve to stabilize the world and bring nations together in reconciliation likely faster than anything else. It might also have a very positive effect on suppressing terrorism and terrorist sympathizors in the region. The AIDS crisis is an awful mess, but the anti-retroviral drugs are out there and getting better and better. The problem is paying for and distributing them - especially where generics are unavailable. The cost of providing enough drugs to the whole continent is not outside the realm of possibility. Every 7 seconds in Africa, one child dies of a preventable disease. 6300 people in Africa die of AIDS each day. Americans can help save the lives of over 2.3 million AIDS sufferers a year (This is according to the data available the the organization's website -I'll try to verify it). Anyway, I thought it would be good to post these thoughts here. I am also considering getting an ad banner up for DATA: The One Campaign on the blog. This does seem like a great cause to get behind on an individual level, as well as on a community level. The website has information and materials for getting your faith-based organizations involved in projects and fundraising events, or involving student-run organizations in drives and projects. So, give it a look and post your thoughts about all this. Is it the answer world disunity? If not, is it justified by the very nature of what it's attempting to accomplish? I think probably so.


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