For Christchurch: U2’s ‘One’ And Why It Matters About The Word In The Song So Many Get Wrong

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern one day after the Christchurch terror attacks.

There’s a line in U2’s One that people always get wrong: “We’re one but we’re not the same / we get to carry each other…”

“Get” being the key word. I remember Bono explaining this some years ago, pointing out that it’s a subtle but significant difference. If “we’ve got to carry each other” rather than the song’s “we get to carry each other”, it suggests both a burden and a lack of choice, no matter how honourable the act.

But given the word of this most inspirational of rock ballads is “get”, the meaning shifts. No longer is this a burden, it is a privilege. We get to carry each other. Some may feel they have to, others will because they know no other way and it’s what they want to do. And perhaps for another category, they simply won’t.

As the actor Paul Michael Glaser (the original Starsky of Starsky & Hutch) once told menot everybody has the tools to help others.

Coming from a man who’d ultimately lose both his soul mate, Elizabeth, and daughter, Ariel, to AIDS at a time when precious little was known about the disease, his forgiveness and pragmatism for the friends that abandoned him staggers me. I would’ve been inclined to describe those “friends” as selfish and cold-hearted, but Glaser’s outlook is something I’ve never forgotten. We get to carry each other.

In these coming days of New Zealanders struggling to come to grips with a terrorist attack of such magnitude that there was simply no bigger story anywhere in the world for more than 24-hours, we should also take solace from the succinct words of Martin Luther King: “Somewhere along the way, we must learn that there is nothing greater than to do something for others”. Or as U2 reminded us in 1991, “we get to carry each other”.

50 people are dead, many of them children. My head tells me “we’ve got to carry each other”, but rephrasing that to “get” reiterates that through the worst of times, the best in us is seen because it strikes as being unexpected; as sincere. It’s the only way our species has been able to survive through the repeated hardships and gut-wrenching injustices that history suggests are a tragic reality of the human existence.

For the Muslim community in Christchurch; for any refugee in this country who may now feel scared and for every Kiwi and indeed every other persuasion of person on this small dot of a planet in the universe who’s been affected by this vile act of racist, Islamophobic hatred, here is U2’s One. We get to carry each other. For those that do, may it be a privilege.

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