Why Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” is the Most Anti-Patriotic Song to Ever Be Loved by America as a Nationalistic Anthem

Like many Americans in my generation, I’m confused by what it means to be “patriotic.”

It’s interesting to sit back and watch while half of America cheers after hearing about the execution of Osama bin Laden then the rest of America chastises them for cheering the death of an enemy, as they misquote Martin Luther King, Jr.  The concept of being a patriotic American is surely much different than it was my for grandparents and their parents.  Being completely honest, I think a lot of us are actually confused about what it actually means to be “patriotic.”  Is it possible to be a proud American and to be proud of our military, yet to be ashamed of some of our nation’s foreign policies?

In May of 1984, country artist Lee Greenwood released “God Bless the USA”, the song many of us think is titled “Proud to Be an American.” The song truly embodied traditional patriotism; no doubt about it. Then just five months later on the day before Halloween, Bruce Springsteen released the song “Born the USA.” Maybe it was because radio listeners were still in a truly patriotic mood thanks to Mr. Greenwood, or maybe they were just blinded by the catchy, rockin’ beat of Mr. Springsteen’s song.  Either way, “Born in the USA” became a legendary hit;  though largely for the wrong reasons.

President Ronald Reagan even referred to Springsteen’s song in one of his speeches, believing “Born in the USA” embodied the message of the American theme of making dreams come true. However, Bruce Springsteen’s song was actually about the effects of the Vietnam War;  including the fact that often the American soldiers who came back from the war were not welcomed when they returned, not being seen as heroes like the war veterans from decades before.  In fact, I can’t help but wonder if some of the song’s lyrics would disqualify it from being played on the radio today, being that they are too “politically incorrect.”

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
‘Til you spend half your life just covering up…

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
I go down to see the V.A. man
He said “Son don’t you understand”

I believe that 27 years later, “Born in the USA” perfectly captures the confusion of people like me, who want to be patriotic in the same way as my grandparents were, yet are so sick of the politics of politics.  I don’t want to be left to choose between traditional Republican or Democratic agendas.  I want another choice- one with a different policy on our economy,our constitutional rights, and how we handle international war as well as “the war on drugs”.

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18 thoughts on “Why Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” is the Most Anti-Patriotic Song to Ever Be Loved by America as a Nationalistic Anthem

  1. There is another song just like that. One that people, decade after decade, have mistaken as a Hymn to America: ‘This Land is Your Land’ by Woody Guthrie. There’s a lot of anger in that song. It comes from the same emotional place that Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ comes from. Bitterness and rage pulse through those works, much like they do in ‘Born in the U.S.A.”. I agree with you as far as the political confusion. I tend to vote mostly Republican. On occasion, I split a ticket. But, I am often embarrassed by my party and there seems to be little option, unfortunately. I mean, Trump? Really?


  2. Thanks for the info, feel kinda stupid but knowing this makes the song better i think. Always thought its not like Bruce to be so “patriotic”.


  3. “Born in the USA” is an extraordinarily patriotic song. Ultimately, it is about taking back the flag. As, by the way, is “This Land Is Your Land,” which was itself an answer to “God Bless America.”

    “Patriotic” needn’t mean mindless flag-waving. If we get beyond that, we’ll recognize that people like Bruce and Woody are/were the real deal. And I doubt that either would support Ron Paul.


  4. Its like you learn my thoughts! You appear to understand a lot approximately this, such as you wrote the e book in it or something. I think that you can do with some percent to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, that is great blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.


  5. It seems that people who never spent the time to hear what they listen too are surprised by the words…. I think it would be wise to hear what Paul is saying! You might find it as stupid as both the republican and democratic party BS! Learn some history, and hear what you listen too, and for God’s sake don’t just by into anything!


  6. Americans have fought in wars for decades to allow us to speak freely. I have heard good & bad about Bruce so I’m not going to judge the man.

    Born In The USA was 1 of the best songs of my childhood. 30 years later, Born in the USA remains one of the best songs.

    Vietnam was important from the standpoint that Americans proved they were willing to shed blood to stop this Red Wall. That was the victory. People always forget that. Salute the Veterans of Vietnam. John


  7. Thomas Jefferson said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” “Born in the USA’ by Bruce Springsteen is indeed just as much a patriotic song as “God Bless America”, by Irving Berlin, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood, and our national anthem “The Star Bangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key.

    Yes, this song does criticize the mistreatment done to returning Vietnam veterans. But, to all the idiots who wrongfully accuse “Born in the USA” of being an unpatriotic song, since when is it unpatriotic to criticize the mistreatment done to our returning veterans!?

    Under the 1st Amendment, we all have to the right openly criticize what is wrong with our country. Indeed, real patriotic Americans, like Bruce Springsteen, Woody Harrelson, and Martin Sheen, speak out about what is wrong with our country!


    • Exactly.

      There are few things more patriotic than supporting our troops, and I believe that Bruce Springsteen was infuriated by how the monsters of “peace” treated the soldiers when they came home. He was anti-war but pro-veteran and pro-military. You don’t have to support all warfare to support our troops.


  8. This song isn’t anti-American or against patriotism. It’s about the brutal mistreatment of Vietnam War veterans that drove so many of them to suicide, and what is most important to them.

    Despite all the song’s main character has been through, he is still proud to be “Born In the USA”, even when life is rough and he goes to places he never wished he had to go to. His patriotism brought him through some of his worst days, and he’s glad he can say that he’s born in the USA.

    This song is anti-Vietnam War, not anti-American. If anything, it’s using true patriotism as a final solace for a crushed man whom no one gave the welcome he truly deserved. That’s the beauty of this song.


  9. You wrote, “Is it possible to be a proud American and to be proud of our military, yet to be ashamed of some of our nation’s foreign policies?” My answer is no! Not “ashamed”! “Critical”, but also in context and intellectually honest about it, then yes. Happy Independence Day 2015!


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