Upon hearing of the death of Sinéad O’Connor at 56, I couldn’t help but think of her appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in 1993.
I was never a fan, but when I watched her look right into the camera while tearing up the Pope’s picture and saying “Fight the real enemy,” I thought it was one of the bravest things I’d ever seen. Right up there with Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved hands on the 1968 Olympics winner’s podium — at the height of the civil rights movement.
O’Connor’s stunt — which came nine months before John Paul II acknowledged the sexual abuse going on inside Catholic Churches the world over — was followed by intense backlash. Not against the bishops and priests who had taken advantage of young boys, but of O’Connor, the rare pop performer to take a stand against the injustices the church was burying.
Her action that night made her a pariah in much of the music world, although she continued to record and tour. This was long before the social media era, but much of the torrent of negative feedback came from the same nitwits who today decry “cancel culture” whenever one of them is criticized for spewing hateful and/or racist remarks. You know, the ones who were so tolerant when the Dixie Chicks came out against George W. Bush launching a disastrous invasion of Iraq a decade later.
In both cases, they were wrong and the fearless women were right.