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Like A Song: Peace On Earth

@U2, December 13, 2012
By: Karen Lindell


Like A Song[Ed. note: This is the 73rd in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]

Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I'm sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain
I'm sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be peace on Earth

I'm sick of war.

I hope for peace.

It's as simple as that.

Shooting, bombing, shelling, stalking, stabbing, raping, attacking, butchering, strangling or pillaging makes no sense to me, whether it's soldiers, civilians, political leaders, animals or property that is destroyed, or whether it's politics, religion, money, territory or honor that's claimed as the reason for it.

When I was little, and my brothers engaged in fierce Lego wars all over the living room, I insisted on being the nurse and hospital -- for both sides. I don't watch violent movies, play violent video games, cheer at boxing or laugh at any kind of fighting because I never, ever want to become desensitized to violence. I always want to flinch at the sound of a gun, to cry when people are blown up, to feel discouraged when a newspaper story about 20 nameless people killed in a battle in some other country is buried on the last page.

Roll your eyes at my idealism and lack of attention to the "nuances" of war, but I believe in peace everywhere on Earth.

Where I grew up there weren't many trees
Where there was we'd tear them down
And use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you
And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you

When I first heard U2's "Peace On Earth" from All That You Can't Leave Behind, I was drawn to it right away. But I don't think I experienced the full power of the song until last year, during the 10-year anniversary commemorations of 9/11.

I came across an artist who shared a work of art he created in response to the terrorist acts of 2001. Pete Ippel of Ventura, Calif., told me that on Sept. 11, 2001, he was in his last semester as an art student at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

As news of the terrorist attacks broke, he and other students naturally turned to the most high-tech mode of communication at the time: AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM. Ippel saved every "away message" from classmates he saw on his screen that day (an away message on AIM is like a voice mail; it appears automatically when someone tries to make contact with the user but he or she is unavailable to respond).

Here are a few examples of away messages he saw:

Today is not a good day.


What do you even say right now?


Ippel turned all the messages into digital art, looping the messages together so they popped up one by one in a video, with U2's "Peace On Earth" playing in the background.

They're reading names out over the radio
All the folks the rest of us won't get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann and Breda
Their lives are bigger than any big idea

When I start to despair that the world is never going to learn war is futile, chaotic and a waste of lives, and always has been, I listen to "Peace On Earth," and it brings me, well, not peace, necessarily, but a sense of hope.

Jesus sing a song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won't rhyme
So what's it worth
This peace on Earth

Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth

How many times do we have to say it before we make it really happen?

(c) @U2/Lindell, 2012

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