Today I am reminiscing about Sinead O'Connor who attempted suicide a few nights ago. I hope she finds some peace in her recovery (as I did in mine).
1990 was a big year for me.
Let's jump back a bit first.
A few years before I had flunked out of school and took a year to get myself together (which really meant fall even deeper into using drugs, partying, and falling apart).
I remember at one point I managed in just a few weeks to lose my girlfriend, get kicked off the debate team, and get notified I had been kicked out of school (no lie, even my cat ran away).
At the end of this nightmare period I asked my parents for a second chance...They agreed, but before I started at a new school in-state (after being extended a much-needed debate scholarship) my parents sent me to spend the summer with my eccentric Grandfather in Tennessee.
Basically, it was a form of rehab. I got a job, worked as many hours as I could, went to church, and hung out with my Grandfather.
Then I returned energized and ready to take on school and a new debate team.
Within two years, I had great grades and won a national debate championship.
1990 was a great year.
My Ears meet Sinead O'Connor
One thing you should know about the transition that I just described, it was a bit incomplete.
Part of my transition included changing from my long held punk looks to a more "debate and school acceptable" look including normal hair and a beard.
Just a year before I made the "success" transition, I had a blue Mohawk, wore makeup frequently, and never left home without the combat boots.
I don't think what you wear or how you cut your hair really matters much, it is really about who you are inside, and that never changed much.
But it changed a little, I at least started to show a public face that hid my tastes for punk and late night club living. I sold out a bit.
And during this year of transition, I started to listen to Sinead O'Connor.
1990 was a great year!
Yes, I know I missed her Lion and Cobra album that came out in 1987. But I found it soon after.
Obviously, most of us learned of her when her cover of the Prince song "Nothing Compares 2 U" broke world wide.
She looked like the girls I had known for years, shaved head, striking eyes, long coats and combat boots.
But, she was also saying stuff that suggested that she was truly fearless.
If you go back and listen to her album "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" and check out the song "Black Boys on Mopeds" I think you will get what I mean.
She took on police violence and war and the United Kingdom and racism, all in one song.
That song would be perfectly at place in the Black Lives Matter Protests, and this album came out in 1990.
The whole album sounds like a protest album...even today.
I listened to it many times, I had it on cassette and often listened to it in the car.
Eventually I also found Lion and the Cobra (also a great album).
I was imagining nothing but massive success for her into the future. She had a great presence, cool voice and sound, and seemed really brave.
I of course, was feeling a bit like a sellout, so I admired her even more for taking all the flack for her shaved head (sound silly but she got crazy hate for that) and for her politics.
And then, only a few years later, all hell broke lose for her.
The Bravery of Sinead
In 1992 Sinead performed on SNL. During her performance of the song "War" by Bob Marley she pulled out a picture of the Pope and tore it into pieces while saying "evil" and "fight the real enemy."
To me, even at the time, I thought to myself "about time someone called out the Pope"
The pope, that pope (John Paul II), was anything but forgiving when it came to issues of women's equality and choice.
But actually she was protesting child abuse in the Catholic Church way before virtually anyone else.
Here was Sinead's quote at the time:
"It's not the man, obviously—it's the office and the symbol of the organization that he represents... In Ireland we see our people are manifesting the highest incidence in Europe of child abuse. This is a direct result of the fact that they're not in contact with their history as Irish people and the fact that in the schools, the priests have been beating the shit out of the children for years and sexually abusing them. This is the example that's been set for the people of Ireland. They have been controlled by the church, the very people who authorized what was done to them, who gave permission for what was done to them."
But I had no idea, I was just a young adult. Like everyone else, I just assumed it was women's issues.
But she paid a huge price.
She was an Irish Catholic, not an American Irish Catholic, an Irish Irish Catholic.
This was war.
She was pilloried in the press, her music was steamrolled literally in town squares, and she was booed off stages.
If you read some of her other statements during this time, you would learn of her own personal experience with sexual and physical abuse. Her protest was very personal and specific, and she was shunned for it.
And she never really recovered from it.
She authentically believed she was trying to fight the Catholic Church decades before the rest of us found out the whole scope of the terror.
She was made into a punchline.
Wishing Sinead Peace Tonight
People make fun of Sinead O'Connor as they have for decades now.
She says some batshit crazy stuff, and she has some real problems, by her own admission she was raised around addiction and was the victim of abuse.
Despite that she has made some amazing music and showed incredible grace considering how she was treated despite her talents.
I myself have suffered depression, panic disorder, and several different addictions.
I believe deeply in the importance of humble amends.
These issues are not things to make into punchlines. These are issues we should have empathy towards. We should have cared much more than we did.
And we have not really made our amends.
Perhaps you heard that she tried to take her life two nights ago.
In her public suicide note (on Facebook of all places) she said she felt "invisible" and had taken "all" she "could take."
She also referred to being almost broke and homeless.
Much of this was in reference to a custody battle, and probably related to depression and addiction.
But I have to think some of it was our fault too.
We eat people up.
When we decide they have said or done something we don't like, we don't have civil discussions, we eat people alive.
When people struggle or need help, we feed on them the most, especially celebrities.
And, like in this case, when we are wrong. And we clearly were wrong. We don't apologize, we double down.
Sadly, that has become the real American way.
I have a great deal of compassion for Sinead tonight. I have spent the entire night listening to her albums. And I send whatever prayers I can her way.
Luckily she was found and is in treatment.
I hope she finds some peace and happiness in her recovery.
I prefer to remember her looking fierce, like this
Hope you feel the same, do you have memories of Sinead the performer? Do you have good wishes to send her way too? Leave a comment at least as a symbolic gesture (I will see if I can figure out if they set up some drop for them).