The old hippies at Rolling Stone magazine try once again to get a rise out of us Jesus-folk by running a cover photo of rapper Kanye West in a crown of thorns, beaten and bloodied, as if he were the subject of the Crucifixion. Ho-hum. Back when I was a teenager, Madonna’s Like a Prayer video actually attracted some attention. Today, though, Rolling Stone is going to have to work harder to cause a blasphemous splash—perhaps they could run a cover photo of Jewish shock-comic Sarah Silverman dressed as the Prophet Mohammed, and see if that gets some feedback.
While we’re waiting for hell to freeze over, let’s think about why poor Kanye’s visage is so artfully posed in thoughtful anguish. West, you’ll remember, was that fellow who went off the script during a live Hurricane Katrina fundraiser and extemporized about how “George Bush doesn’t care about black people!”
I was thinking about West’s rant the other day when I saw that Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson had been sworn in as the democratically elected President of Liberia. She is the first female president in an African country, and she rises to that position from the ashes of a long and brutal civil war.
It’s good to remember how George W. Bush helped her get there.
Liberia had been a fairly stable and successful nation since it was founded by repatriated American slaves in the 19th century, right up until things went horribly wrong and a civil war broke out between rival warlords—Prince Johnson, Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor.
“Civil War” to Americans conjures up images of ranks of blue and butternut uniforms squared off with muskets at Antietam. Liberia’s was different. War is hell, but Liberia’s struggle was distinguished by its insane, surreal brutality. (A thorough, scholarly account of the war and its causes is The Mask of Anarchy by Stephen Ellis.)