Do You Need An Enemy? U2 Songs, Bono Lyrics, and Fear


Apparently Bono has been thinking about enemies lately, maybe both the idea of enemies and some potential enemies, or maybe even real enemies.

Let’s look at three songs from three consecutive albums.

From Fast Cars , a bonus track on How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (2004):

My cell is ringing
No ID
I need to know who’s calling
My garden’s overgrown
I go out on my belly crawling
I got CCTV, pornography, CNBC
I got the nightly news
To get to know the enemy

I’ll argue that’s a series of negative images, and it might be troubling, at least in some cases, that the news media is defining and situating an enemy for us.

From Cedars of Lebanon on No Line On The Horizon (2009):

Choose your enemies carefully cos they will define you
Make them interesting cos in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friend

I’d say that’s a sobering thought, one that’s been on my mind recently.

From Cedarwood Road on Songs Of Innocence (2014):

Sleepwalking down the road
Not waking from these dreams
‘Cause it’s never dead it’s still my head
It was a warzone in my teens
I’m still standing on that street
Still need an enemy
The worst ones I can’t see
You can… you can

What a stunning confession, and one that rings true, and might be universal. Maybe humans need enemies as much as they need friends.

Overall, that’s an interesting collection from three consecutive albums: Getting to know the enemy; choosing one’s enemy; needing an enemy. Is anyone else writing songs, from a similar angle, about enemies?

Cedarwood Road is interesting in that respect: It talks about fear as well as friendship—the song is dedicated to one of Bono’s childhood friends.

Earlier in Cedarwood Road:

I was running down the road
The fear was all I knew
I was looking for a soul that’s real
Then I ran into you
And that cherry blossom tree
Was a gateway to the sun
And friendship once it’s won
It’s won… it’s one

And later in Cedarwood Road:

If the door is open it isn’t theft
You can’t return to where you’ve never left
Blossoms falling from a tree they cover you and cover me
Symbols clashing, bibles smashing
Paint the world you need to see
Sometimes fear is the only place we can call home 

Maybe that last line could be the key to Bono’s thoughts and feelings about enemies: “Sometimes fear is the only place we can call home.”

That’s a sad yet accurate description of human affairs, and, of course, many leaders want our attention as they describe their solutions.

But the leaders who want to tell us why fear is a bad home should start by explaining their own actions based on their own fears—before they paint the solution they want us to see.

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2 responses to “Do You Need An Enemy? U2 Songs, Bono Lyrics, and Fear

  1. And there is also Every Breaking Wave
    Every sailor knows that the sea is a friend made enemy.
    I think the words speak for themselves really.
    But don’t forget that enemy can also be NME. … The music mag which Bono and U2 have graced the cover of multi times.

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