I wish I had reviewed this earlier, moments after watching it, because my thoughts were so much clearer then. Must be age. I'm getting old!
Anyhoo, here's what I can remember:
I loved Sinead O'Connor. I thought The Lion and the Cobra, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, and Am I Not Your Girl? were amazing albums. I remember leaping to my feet during the 1989 Grammys as she performed Mandinka, and Nothing Compares 2 U (written by Prince, as everyone knows) was peerless in her delivery of it... and that's saying something, am I right?
And for whatever it's worth, I have absolutely zero need for anyone to be my role model in life, be they a tech giant, humanitarian, librarian, or striking young upstart with doe eyes and a voice that wails; nope, for good or bad, I'm not looking to them for direction in my faith, my voting, my financial investment advice. They can keep that, because I get what I need elsewhere, so the public's outcries over Sinead's perceived 'sacrilege, blasphemy, or sanctimony' as demonstrated on Oct 3, 1992 (when she ripped that photo of the Pope into quarters) was awkward, sure, but it wasn't as if one single moment in time instantaneously eroded my admiration for her.
To the extent I periodically struggle to support her, it's generally traceable to three behavioral challenges:
First, her stridency, because I do struggle with graceless people who are quick to judge, or constantly judge, or are merciless in their judgment. In an effort to heed my own advice, I shall stop right there.
Second, her flip-flopping (which is a pattern throughout her life, and, when compounded with stridency, is particularly problematic) because what she's so bitter and rageful about today may not be on-brand for her tomorrow. Now, because I am also a sinful wretch and a wholly imperfect work-in-progress myself, I shall similarly not judge her stridently for her flip-flopping (!), but, rather, simply document eight sweeping examples of what I mean that makes her tricky: (1) Since tearing that photo, she has become a priest, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and Muslim—all of which begs the question What does she believe? (2) Since being born Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor, she has changed her legal name twice now, first to Magda Davitt in 2017, and then to Shuhada Sadaqat barely one year later. (3) She has progressed in three decades through three sexual identities. (4) She has denigrated patriotism yet preaches endlessly about freedom of speech. (5) She has complained about particular artists being "bombastic," but is the epitome of bombast. (6) She has put forth very strong statements about all manner of groups, ideologies, and organizations only to retract her statements and explain they were "nonsense" spoken by someone "too young to understand." (7) She has decried her mother's suicide as "selfish," then proceeded to attempt to take her own life on at least three known occasions, and (8) in June 2021, she tweeted "This is to announce my retirement from touring and from working in the record business," only to retract that statement a few days later as "a knee-jerk reaction" to an insensitive interview, further stating that she would be doing her already scheduled 2022 tour. ALL THIS TO SAY: It can be difficult to support someone so verbal / vocal / outspoken / opinionated, so articulate, so bright, and so well-intentioned when that person's words and behaviors swing 180-degrees from one week or month or year to the next. Of her mercurial flip-flopping, she wrote in 2018: "[My prior statements] were not true at the time and they are not true now. I was triggered as a result of [particular hate] dumped on me. I apologize for [the] hurt [I] caused."
To be clear, we can (and often do) support individuals as human beings, not human doings, which is to say no matter their beliefs or behaviors, and we also support them as their scaffolds and sense of self shift over time. That's natural, that's normal, that's life. I am 100% with you on this. The challenge (as evidenced in the cycle of damaged relationships that beleaguer her like a long tail) is that it's hard to live for decades in the eye of a hurricane because, at some point, one is forsaking sense of self and stability by continuing to embrace and say yes to tumult, trauma, and the drama and re-drama over and over and over again.
In a critique of the September 2022 horror film Speak No Evil (!), Susannah Gruder wrote "[This film is] a piercing commentary on the ways we accommodate others to the point of self-subjugation," and I believe that observation is illuminating when perceiving Sinead. In the final 60 seconds of the flick, (**spoiler alert coming**), the protagonists ask (whilst being stoned to death in a quarry), "Why are you doing this to us?" to which the antagonist replies coldly, "Because you let me."
The same could be said by any number of our politicians, our police, our patriots, our patrons, our pollsters, our philosophers, our pontificators in all these wild and crazy times, and certainly by the younger Sinead and older Shuhada, whose journey of self-discovery, I hope, is nearing a long-overdue season of self-assuredness, self-love, stability, and inner peace. We must remember that she and we live together in this big glass house, and as we alternatingly deride then deify her (or anyone standing near us), this fragile house can come crashing down upon our collective heads, which brings me to my third and final point: She is on a path, but is [arguably] intermittently or persistently unwell, and no one among us does the other one any favors by altogether ignoring this fact, or, perhaps even worse, denying it outright. To do so is tantamount to gaslighting truth itself.
In conclusion, Shuhada Sadaqat is nothing if not a complicated person with many layers, so my own strategy is to prepare for the worst but pray for the best in her life, to chill with all my harsh criticisms of her, and to either turn the other cheek or to take her myriad-yet-fleeting criticisms with a grain of salt. Her anger toward her homeland, or patriarchy, or priests, or institutions, or specific people (or periodically perhaps even broad swaths of them!) will come and go, reach and recede, be staunch one day then spongy and squishy the next. That is the nature of her personality as well as the ephemera of the ages, and the best (or the most) we can do is to simply love one another, to extend our empathy and give others the benefit of the doubt, and to be appreciative when those nearest and dearest to us are gracious enough to go and do likewise for the betterment of our mutual mental health.
As Sinead put it in 2012, "How about I be me and you be you?"
Meanwhile, I thank Shuhada for her peppy Mandinka, just as I do Yusuf for Moonshadow, Peace Train, and Morning Has Broken.
"They tried to bury me, but they didn’t realise I was a seed.”
—The Artist Formerly Known as Sinead