This piece hijacked my thinking for a few hours. There is so much to unpack here. Some of my thoughts:
Many, perhaps even most, people read stories and articles through the lens of their own worldview. Reading a story told by an “interpreter” is easier than reading a story told by a Syrian or Jordanian journalist — their choice of words may not resonate and therefore their stories may not seem believable. But, as you suggest, a “trusted” interpreter like Bono could have introduced and then passed the mic to one of these journalists. Bono could have told the reader “what you are about to read from this journalist may not be comfortable, but…”
People in the United States have come to expect this oversimplification and magical language. And when those readers become travelers who come into contact with people /situations that are so different for them resort to this behavior as a familiar way to explain what they are feeling — when it just might be culture shock. And so it perpetuates. I remember sharing some photos I took in Tanzania with a friend. She looked through the stack and said “My brother came home from Jamaica with these same kinds of photos”. I was appalled. I felt a great responsibility. I hadn’t intended to be an interpreter, but there I was. So now I only share photos and stories that challenge people’s ideas and mindsets. But hey, I’m not Bono.
Melissa Batchelor Warnke are those wildly experienced activists from developing countries from your class writing anywhere? I want to believe there is an audience here for their work. Thanks for writing this article. I’m hungry for more.