This past weekend, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), an opposition party to the ruling junta in Burma (officially known as Myanmar by the government there) won an astonishing 43 out of 45 seats up for grabs in a general election. Suu Kyi herself will now sit in one of the parliamentary seats.
Burmese activists remain hopeful but cautious as the votes still need to be verified by the military-run government. If the Burmese people continue to support the democratic vision of the NLD, Suu Kyi and her party have the potential to gain a majority of seats in parliament in the 2015 election.
U2 have long been supporters of the pro-democracy leader, likening her to Martin Luther King. During the recent 360 tour they honored Suu Kyi by dedicating several songs to her. On their first swing through America, the band offered a prayer by singing “MLK” – “sleep, sleep tonight / and may your dreams be realized” – and then blazing into “Walk On,” a song written about her for the album All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
But an amazing thing happened just before U2 returned to the States for the final leg of their tour (beginning with the fourth leg). Suu Kyi was released from nearly 22 years of captivity and house arrest. U2’s petition became a prayer of thanksgiving by substituting “MLK” with “Scarlet.” Only one word was needed: “Rejoice!” The anthem “Walk On” then became a celebration of peace and justice over and against the military oppression of the Burmese government.
It’s uncertain as to whether the junta will honor the election (they haven’t in the past), but the eyes of the world are now on Burma, and the pressure to become a democratic nation is expansive. In speaking of this “new era,” Suu Kyi reminded her supporters, “What is important is not how many seats we may have won, but that . . . the people participated in the democratic process. We invite all parties who wish to bring peace and prosperity to our country [to work together].”
Past comments on Aung San Suu Kyi from Bono
I have a little bit of a relationship with Aung San Suu Kyi. I’ve met her family and corresponded with her. U2 actually wrote a song – Walk On – for her. I’ve always followed her progress and that of the Burmese people. She is a study in grace and they are a study in patience.
It’s hard not to become a monster when you are trying to defeat one. Aung San Suu Kyi is the moral leader of Myanmar, the country more correctly known as Burma. She has been, in effect, under house arrest since 1989.
Suu Kyi is a real hero in an age of phony phone-in celebrity, which hands out that title freely to the most spoiled and under qualified. Her quiet voice of reason makes the world look noisy, mad; it is a low mantra of grace in an age of terror, a reminder of everything we take for granted and just what it can take to get it. Thinking of her, you can’t help but use anachronistic language of duty and personal sacrifice.
Here is a clip of “MLK” and “Walk On” from October 25, 2009 in Pasadena, California.
Here is a clip of “Scarlet” and “Walk On” from July 26, 2011 (after Suu Kyi’s release) in Pittsburgh.
For readers who are interested in more info on U2 and Aung San Suu Kyi, see my personal blog here.