Monday, July 28, 2008

Respect for the Boss

"...I try to chart the distance between American ideals and American reality."
Bruce Springsteen is one of my favorite songwriters, arguably the best of our generation. I may not always agree with his politics, but last night's re-air of CBS 60 Minutes' interview reminded me why I admire the way he lives his values.
"I'm interested in what it means to be an American. I'm interested in what it means to live in America. I'm interested in the kind of country that we live in and leave our kids. I'm interested in trying to define what that country is."
Since September 11, 2001, Springsteen has written about an issue that concerns me as well -- namely, Americans' blindness to the reactionary threat from within:
"It's like we've reached a point where it seems that we're so intent on protecting ourselves that we're willing to destroy the best parts of ourselves to do so."

"...I think that we've seen things happen over the past six years that I don't think anybody ever thought they'd ever see in the United States. When people think of the American identity, they don't think of torture. They don't think of illegal wiretapping. They don't think of voter suppression. They don't think of no habeas corpus. No right to a know. Those are things that are anti-American."
CBS correspondent Scott Pelley asked Springsteen if he was worried that his views might prompt some to consider him unpatriotic. His answer reveals the same thoughtful honesty reflected in his music:
"Well, that's just the language of the day, you know? The modus operandi for anybody who doesn't like somebody, you know, criticizing where we've been or where we're goin'. It's unpatriotic at any given moment to sit back and let things pass that are damaging to some place that you love so dearly. And that has given me so much. And that I believe in, I still feel and see us as a beacon of hope and possibility."
There's no disputing that Bruce Springsteen has his eyes open. He sees what each of us has the opportunity to see. He raises his voice and speaks the truth, his truth, describing our world as he sees it:
"I think we live in a time when what is true can be made to seem a lie. And what is lie can be made to seem true. And I think that the successful manipulation of those things have characterized several of our past elections. That level of hubris and arrogance has got us in the mess that we're in right now. And we're in a mess. But if we subvert, the best things that we're about in the name of protecting our freedoms, if we remove them, then who are we becoming, you know? Who are we, you know?"
Acknowledging that he walks in the footsteps of others -- like the late Harry Chapin, who urged Springsteen to follow his example to "play one night for me and one night for the other guy" -- he embraces his role:
"There's a part of the singer going way back in American history that is of course the canary in the coalmine. When it gets dark, you're supposed to be singing. It's dark right now."

"The American idea is a beautiful idea. It needs to be preserved, served, protected and sung out. Sung out on a nightly basis. That's what I'm going to try to do."
Bruce Springsteen is one gifted independent citizen-patriot. Whether or not I agree, he has my respect.