Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sinead O'Connor: A Modern Cassandra?

It's interesting the amount of perspective one can gain in the course of almost twenty years. I totally remember when Sinead O'Connor was on SNL, and the whole ripping of the pic of the Pope.

Sinéad O'Connor - WAR - SNL - The top video clips of the week are here

At the time, I simply didn't get it. I didn't have a visceral reaction one way or another, but I did wonder what on earth it was that happened to provoke such a reaction. Well, in light of the revelations from the Irish Catholic Church concerning the years of abuse Irish children were subjected to, I think I now finally understand O'Connor's anger at the time. And it is clear that O'Connor's anger with the Catholic Church has not gone away.

In a way, O'Connor reminds me of the Greek figure Cassandra. The world reacted in angry horror to that 1992 performance on SNL, and O'Connor paid a heavy price for daring to condemn the Catholic Church in such a public fashion. Yet here we are 18 years later. Look at that clip again. O'Connor's message seems crystal clear, doesn't it? I think in many ways, O'Connor has been vindicated.

Better 18 years late, than never.


Rhen said...

As a practicing Catholic in 1990, I did have a visceral reaction to this performance. I was a huge fan of O'Connor and was watching SNL that night to catch her on the show. The end of that performance struck me as hard as if she'd landed a blow on my face.

The parallel you make between O'Connor and Cassandra is an interesting one. Certainly there has been friction between Irish Catholics and Rome for a long time (I should know, being raised by an Irish Catholic). In the midst of that friction, however, there was still a grudging respect for the Pope as the father of the church; O'Connor threw centuries of practice to the side when she ripped up his picture while saying "Fight the real evil."

Twenty years later (and with another person assuming the papacy), I am more in agreement with her than I was then. Joseph Ratzinger being elected Pope destroyed what faith I had in the Catholic religion. I had an intense dislike of the man stemming from his time as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
Nevertheless, while O'Connor was, I'm sure, protesting from belief dear to her soul, doing something like this was intended to shock and mortify. If that's what she intended, then she succeeded beyond belief. It pretty much destroyed her music career in the US. I am not a fan of such shock tactics; I prefer reasoned discourse and presentation of the facts. Obviously, O'Connor felt that particular tactic wouldn't work in this case.

I do think she has been vindicated to a degree. It seems that every day there is more revelation and horror stories coming from the Vatican and churches around the globe. I hope that one day, O'Connor can find peace in a fight she is still struggling with.

Anonymous said...

I'm an Irish person living in the US. I had recently moved to the States when this happened. I remember thinking at the time that it was in bad taste - not because I was offended but just because I knew there was going to be serious back-lash on her. It totally destroyed her career here in the States. But I can tell you that I knew exactly what she was alluding to both with the changed lyrics and w/ the picture. How could you not?

Obviously Americans had no idea what was going on here, but the rest of the world sure as shit knew what she was talking about. But people were still offended - nobody knew the extent to which the Vatican was involved in the cover-up I suppose.

Vindication for Sinead!

I'm not religious at all - but I find it ironic that according to Catholic dogma and if the allegations of a cover-up are true, that the rebel blasphemer tearing up the picture of the symbol of holiest man on Earth is more likely to go to Heaven than the man in photo. Death and damnation to all child abusers, and to those that are complicit in the suffering.

hscfree said...

@Anon: Thank you for your comment. I don't know if you saw it, but there is an interview with O'Connor on The Rachel Maddow Show. I have posted the interview under the post title "Sinead O'Connor: A Modern Cassandra? II."