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”.