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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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October 8, 2007 11:21 AM

Shock! Some might say Springsteen is anti-war

Posted by David Postman

Bruce Springsteen's appearance on 60 Minutes last night is getting some negative and positive attention for his comments about what he described as the "distance between American ideals and American reality."

Springsteen's new album is political and in parts clearly anti-war. "Last to Die" is an obvious homage to what the young Vietnam vet John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Springsteen sings:

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake/The last to die for a mistake/Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break/Who'll be the last to die for a mistake.

Early mentions of the album point out that "Bruce's Magic Has Anti-War Message" and "Springsteen takes on war, Bush in 'Magic'.", though one reviewer said the "the anti-war rockers "Livin' In the Future" and "Last to Die"" are an exception among lyrics that "mostly bypass political ideology and instead ponder the vagaries of love and the reckless freedom of youth."

Given all that, what struck me watching Scott Pelley interview Springsteen was this question:

"You know, I think this record is going to be seen as anti-war. And you know there are people watching this interview who are going to say to themselves, 'Bruce Springsteen is no patriot.'"

It's not even a question, but the sort of comment reporters use to elicit a response without wanting to take ownership of a question. (See also, Katie Couric interviews Bush. ) Springsteen's response:

"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."

Pelley makes "anti-war" sound like "Red" circa 1954, and in doing so, he plays to the worst of "the language of the day." But it did allow Springsteen to deliver a commentary on the mix of music and politics:

"The American idea is a beautiful idea. It needs to be preserved, served, protected and sung out. Sung out."

But in all that was said by Springsteen, what struck me most is what Springsteen said about why he left the E Street Band for a while to go solo:

"We all have stories we're living and telling ourselves. And there's a time when that narrative has to be broken because you've run out of freedom in it. You've run out of places to go."

"Breaking the narrative" could be the name of a self-help book or some new psychotherapy. I'm not sure what that means to me, or more generally to politics, newspapers or blogging. But it's stuck in my head this morning, and if I figure it out I'll let you know.

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