“Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen (1984)

1 04 2009

Happy April Fool’s Day!  I’m posting this track on this day for a reason, so bear with me.

Bruce Springsteen is a national treasure.  You will find some really hardcore Springsteen fans out there, a testament to his ability to reach people through his music.  He tells it like it is, what it’s like to live in this country, both good and bad.  He’s not afraid to point out problems, to identify issues we all need to talk about.

This track is about a kid our country sent to Vietnam to fight a war.  America didn’t really know what to do about its veterans from Vietnam.  We were used to treating our soldiers as returning heroes, but the Vietnam War was an ugly mess.  An ugly mess that destroyed many lives, including those “lucky” veterans who survived.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

And more:

I had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone

It’s a pretty stark picture of the lingering effects of war.  A war that many people (including me) think was entirely unnecessary, to say the least.

So here’s the April Fool’s connection:  This song has been adopted as a patriotic anthem by people who never bothered to understand the lyrics.  All they heard was “Born in the U.S.A.” and assumed it was some updated version of “God Bless America.”  Certain right-wing politicians even tried (and still try!) to use the song in their campaigns, campaigns that include pretty militaristic policies.

To me that’s just indicative of an absurd, jingoistic mindset, the “my country right or wrong” idea.  An idea that is so ingrained in some folks’ minds that they can’t even hear the words in the songs they use to prop up their paper-thin patriotism.  April Fools!

“You’ll never have a quiet world ’til you knock the patriotism out of the human race.” — George Bernard Shaw




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