Bruce Springsteen is one of my favorite songwriters. He and the E Street Band have been a musical inspiration to me for a number of years now. This doesn’t mean I like all of his material – in fact, there’s quite a bit I don’t like – but approximately 70 songs of his are top notch in my estimation. As spectacular as Springsteen’s live performances are, perhaps his greatest skill is his lyrical storytelling. He is able to communicate depths of human emotion in profound ways and he frequently centers on themes of faith, hope, and redemption. Fans will acknowledge a spiritual element in Springsteen’s music, even describing his concerts in terms of a religious experience. Springsteen’s lyrics may also be meaningful in the lives of many Christians, regardless of his own religious affiliation or lack thereof.
Over the years Springsteen has become known for political activism. With the hit song, “Born in the USA,” Springsteen entered into the arena of public policy, proving that he isn’t afraid to criticize our elected leaders. This week, he sparked controversy for covering Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” at a patriotic event in Washington, D.C. The song has anti-war undertones and takes jabs at the political elite. But this is by no means a bad thing! Politicians are not above reproach and we do well to expose immorality. In fact, libertarians and constitutionalists may argue that there is nothing more patriotic than decrying the abuses of power we witness day in and day out.
Yet, Springsteen himself is not above reproach. He isn’t out of line for singing “Born in the USA” or “Fortunate Son” – he actually has a much bigger problem. In recent years Springsteen has been vocal against unjust wars, illegal wiretapping, the PATRIOT Act, and other violations of civil liberties. So far, so good. The problem is that he turns those grievances into support and campaigning for President Obama (a wiretapping, PATRIOT Act-renewing, liberty-violating warhawk). Do you see the inconsistency?
Andrew Kirell said it best two years ago in his open letter to Springsteen:
“Bush was awful. I was with you on that one. Even though I am turned off when my favorite musicians use their concerts as a gigantic soapbox, I appreciated that you were at least ranting on behalf of civil libertarian values. But now, after spending six years being the most outspoken musical advocate against Bush-era civil liberties encroachments, you openly endorse a man who has willingly continued these exact ‘un-American’ policies? Either you are a political fraud or just blinded by the light of partisanship.”
Springsteen may be able to identify problems in our country, but he has not identified solutions. Continue reading Fraud in the USA? An Open Letter to Bruce Springsteen here.