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  • Springsteen's Ode to Conservative Values?

    From “Born to Run” to “Born in the USA,” “Darkness on the Edge of Town” to “Human Touch,” Bruce Springsteen has brought his brand of rock from the streets of New Jersey to the farms of the heartland, speaking to the American experience as a poet with a six-string. For more than 40 years, he has carried the torch of rock-and-roll to millions of fans, and now he’s headed back on tour, this time with a new song that, believe it or not, speaks to conservative values.

    Sure, it might seem to be a stretch. After all, The Boss has been known for his liberal activism. His anthem “No Surrender” was John Kerry’s campaign theme song in 2004, he headlined MoveOn PAC’s “Vote for Change” tour that same year, and he opened for President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

    But Springsteen’s “Take Care of Our Own”—which seems custom-made for a political campaign commercial—interestingly enough resonates with those on the right, whether Bruce realizes it or not:

    From Chicago to New Orleans
    From the muscle to the bone
    From the shotgun shack to the Superdome
    We yelled “help” but the cavalry stayed home
    There ain’t no-one hearing the bugle blown
    We take care of our own
    We take care of our own
    Wherever this flag’s flown
    We take care of our own

    If there is one theme that cries out, it’s that in this American community of ours, we ultimately rely on each other and, as he admits, sometimes the “cavalry” cannot come to save us. Conservatives would agree. Instead of seeking a savior in government, conservatives value self-determination, free enterprise, limited government, and individual freedom—all of which suffer when an almighty state crowds out our freedoms.

    Liberals, though, first look to their cavalry—the federal government—to come to the rescue when Americans are in need rather than finding solutions in civil society — among local communities, houses of worship, schools, volunteer organizations, and neighborhoods.

    We saw that philosophy in President Obama’s State of the Union address this week when he advocated for a new wave of progressive policies to bring “fairness” to America. Instead of seeking to return power to states and local communities so that people can take care of their own, he called for a concentration of more power in Washington, all paid for by confiscatory tax policies that reflect the notion that the federal government knows how to spend money better than the people do.

    The President looks to the state to spur innovation and move America forward. His is an effort to make the “cavalry” bigger so that Americans need not take care of their own. Ultimately, though, that is a policy that saps individual liberties—quite contrary to what the Founders intended. It’s contrary, too, to the rugged individualism that Springsteen once sang of.

    In 1975′s “Thunder Road,” a much-younger Bruce cried out to his beloved, wrenched in pain over the dissatisfaction in his life, his loneliness, his despair, and his desire for something better. And he knew it was up to him to make that change. He didn’t call for the cavalry, but he looked inward, and then he looked forward:

    In the lonely cool before dawn
    You hear their engines roaring on
    But when you get to the porch they’re gone on the wind, so Mary climb in
    This town full of losers and we’re pulling outta here to win

    Moving on to find a better future—and not waiting for the government to provide it—is a truly conservative value and an American one, too.


    Posted in Featured, First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    31 Responses to Springsteen's Ode to Conservative Values?

    1. Ron Fullwood says:

      I think there's a question raised by the Boss' assertions – one which he;s likely raising himself with his reciting of these basic aspirations. That's what they are; not absolute truths, but aspirations we have as Americans that we try and live up to. We can differ on whether those are being honored or not. Given the Boss' championing of the working-class in his songs and his advocacy, I hear more of a challenge in his verse than I do an outright assertion.

    2. radiogrl1 says:

      I was wondering when the lyrical tug of war would begin between the left and the right. Congratulations, sir – yours it the first post I have seen.

      Don't you love the ambiguity? Is the character crying out for an America lost? Is it a sarcastic rant set to a martial beat?

      The best art makes you think. You may begin in 3…2….

    3. radiogrl1 says:

      I was wondering when the lyrical tug of war would begin between the left and the right. Congratulations, sir – yours it the first post I have seen.

      Great art makes one think. The character singing could be on either side of the fence…

    4. Rob Penn says:

      Brownfield has it backward…..this verse especially is an indictment on our government for its inactivity during crisis….and for its continual inactivity since. "We take care of our own" has a huge helping of bitter sarcasm as if to imply the exact opposite. Sorry Mr. Brownfield, you're reading it wrong.

      • saveamerica says:

        Sounds to me like a sprucesteen ploy of who he always was. Disappointed in Americans blaming government for not being at their convenience. That doesn't sit well with me at all.

    5. Todd says:

      Interesting angle, and well written even though I disagree. Knowing what we know about Bruce's politics, I think he's once again using patriotic imagery to cloak his bitter sarcasm and question our values. I saw the song this way: http://bumslogic.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/in-dept

      And attempting to co-opt Thunder Road as a conservative anthem… now that's a stretch. I think they sound more like a couple of hippies jumping in an old car to escape reality. But that's another argument.

    6. Jvdbuk says:

      I'm not sure I would class this song as an ode to conservative values… I think this song is about a government failing to look after it's citizens and those citizens being forced to look after their own as best they can.

      I'd say that, lyrically, it has more in common with any Woody Guthrie song than any flag waving conservative Toby Keith song.

      And Thunder Road is not only clearly not a song that flies the flag for conservative values… it's completely a-political! It's a song about a young guy who's trying to persuade the girl of his fancy that the town they live in is full of losers as they are not young rock n roll folk… so he's wanting to take her away from that town to a more happening, more exciting, more rock n roll place.

      Nicely written, but in my humble opinion, you have the argument all backwards and upside down.

      • I was going to post nearly the same thing, but you beat me to it. Well said, on every point.

        • Ryan says:

          Exactly. It's "WE" take care of "OUR" own, not "I" take care of "MY" own, which is what any Conservative anthem would be. We live in a civil society where we all must depend on each other – government included – for the benefit of all. To somehow infer that "We take care of our own" is an ode to conservative individual responsibility is preposterous and hilarious. Another impotent attempt by conservatives to co-opt "coolness" in their own name, despite being anathema to everything cool. See http://www.salon.com/2012/06/26/we_get_it_grandpa

    7. saveamerica says:

      Too bad Mr. Springsteen doesn't listen to the Americans he's bashing. Or consider private charities that produce positive results and personal esteem that promote personal strength, self reliance and freedom who's donations are received by businesses and everyday Americans, with integrity.

      Bruce was able to rise above a lot in his time, did he need government to help him?

      True Americans genuinely take care of anyone in need without a second thought, which is good to know he's not one of. where as persons have the human qualities to do many things government is doing for them, that's government control oppression! What kind of man born in the usa wants that? We know! We're surrounded! government isn't a god to America and as long as we have each other, there's no need for this magnitude of government!. Maybe it's an ode to the "change" in government? they are fully secure, protected and protective of their own free of charge at taxpayers expense looking for something else to interfere with.

      What's he competing in to win? Didn't he make enough off the backs of his fans who in earlier times would buy his recordings with their last pennies? He's promoting government over people?

      Looks like Mr. Springsteen doesn't have the mind to take care without looking to government control raising his taxes! Sounded good at one time, guess that time is up!

      • Jvdbuk says:

        I can't say that I can completely follow what you're on about here… but the gist is that Springsteen does not care about the Americans that "he's bashing"?

        He's not bashing Americans… he's bashing the government, for failing the Americans, who he does care for.

        I don't want to idolise the guy, he's just a guy, but on the whole, he does seem like a great guy who cares for his fellow humans… he routinely donates large sums of money to local food banks in cities he plays in, he plays charity gigs, he sings about the strife of "the common people" (not just Americans…

        Also the point that we don't need government as long as we have each other is a complete fallacy… without any form of government you'd have anarchy… people wouldn't say "Hey, I have a spare 1,000 bucks in the bank, I'll go and jump in my car and give it to those poor downtown homeless people"… at least not the majority of people. And even if they did… the current mess was not created by your average person, it was created by greedy bankers, corporations who have no soul, who only care about the bottom line and the EBITDA and the profit margins… they won't play nice with less government involvement or learn from the mistakes that were made over the last 10 or 20 years… they'll screw us even harder.

        A government's first and most important job is to serve and protect the people who elected said government… to govern a country to its best ability so as to benefit the citizens of the country as best as possible… it's impossible to always do right by everybody, but that doesn't mean it's not worth a shot.

        Right now, it doesn't feel like the US government, or many other governments in the western ("civilised") society are trying real hard to do their primary job.

        That's what he's singing about in this here song… they ain't doing their job so we HAVE to look after our own and do their job for them.

        • saveamerica says:

          America doesn't need government to the extreme it's become. Unconstitutional Government is interfering in the lives of all, misguiding people along the way! Why are immigrants coming here without a clue as to America and her principles? First thing they show is inferiority!! Promoting government involvement into personal, cultural livelihoods is "bashing" Americans. My spouse was a fan as a youngster but when he listened to the words of born in the usa, he called it communist!

    8. Todd says:

      Springsteen, like most of the Hollywood/entertainment industry, is as left as they can get. His song is criticism of George W. Bush and the perceived lack of response following Katrina – nothing more.

      • Jason says:

        Nothing more?? I'd say the song is criticising a lot more…not JUST George W. Bush, but of the government as a whole, as well as any sort of policy making and driving entity that looks out for themselves while neglecting "our own." Perceived lack of response??? You make it sound as though there's a reality in which there was a proper response to Katrina. Perhaps you and the author of this twisted interpretation of Bruce's new song feel that those trapped in or on top of homes should have saved themselves rather than waiting for a rescuer who wasn't coming to help them out. It's a damn shame that Katrina couldn't have waited until W.'s vacation was over. Are you TRULY saying the response to Katrina was timely and appropriate? Perhaps some day you'll find yourself in need of help that's slow to get there and you'll have chance to take pride in the way America takes care of it's own.

        • Bobbie says:

          The Katrina response was the incompetence of the state government, Jason. There is absolutely no reason people should've been trapped on their roof tops had their been proper state leadership! What were they doing, saving themselves so they can blame bush? how lowly… Any help slow to come will always be a wait on government! Regardless of Katrina, Springsteen communicates subliminal weakness in the American people to blame government for not being where Springsteen expects them.

    9. wylerassociate says:

      This song is an indictment of the american government not looking after those who are struggling & less fortunate. Born In The USA is not a nativist jingoistic song, it’s an protest song against the war in vietnam that reagan & republicans tried to co-opt to fit their jingoistic political agenda. I doubt this ignorant writer has ever taken the time to read the lyrics to springsteen’s music and understand what springsteen’s values are. Bruce is for legalizing illegal immigrants, universal health care, tax hikes for the rich including himself, helping those who are struggling, social justice for minorities and the oppressed.

      • Tom says:

        Still great music

      • Bobbie says:

        wylerassociate just because it came to be, it's not so much the role of government to look after those struggling and less fortunate as it is up to us, springsteen and charities that promote self dignity!! Legalizing people who committed a crime is seeing them to be less the dignity to follow the law! How is that a good thing? He's a white supremacist?

        Universal health care is a trap and dangerous, just like the control government has of the infrastructure they don't maintain or everything else they're in control of showing poor handling and massive corruption, seems irrational to put anyone's personal health in their hands? hospital goes on strike!!! dangerous to implement such a simple solution for something so vital and to put your health in control where you're not is something you should consider! everything was fine the way it was, but manipulated to look the way it does.

        nobody is stopping the rich from giving more why have government in charge of it as if it will go to the people that think they're going to get it? the government gets their cut always but here they will be the sole beneficiary while protecting the rich that encouraged the rant. The President enables resentment of the rich but doesn't say what or where the money will be used. He just wants it, with us thinking it's coming our way of course!
        Springsteen should be motivating instead of pitying the struggling.
        "social justice" is demeaning. It's saying you're not one, you're a group of one!!!! no self worth!
        It's the government that oppresses!

        Unless he explains himself, Springsteen is who anyone wants to see him to be…

    10. Faith and Hope says:

      I see this a little different than some. It looks as though it was during Katrina when the Calvery was late. I may be wrong but….

    11. Vint Mac says:

      The folks interpreting the song — correctly — as a low key (at least when compared to "Born in the USA") indictment of the government, and the _peoples'_, lack of action (whether it be to help others or to NOT vote for guys like Cheney & Bush) in the past 15 years are on the money (although I can't believe others have to point that out, since the verses of the song make it painfully obvious. As for the chorus, there might be a link to a news interview that happened right after Katrina, during which white southerners — they termed themselves that way during the interview — said they had enjoyed shooting at possible thieves, then they joked about the "n-word" and a woman finished by say, "Around here, we take care of our own"). All of which (coupled with the hammer on the head verses) would lead people who are at least semi-educated to conclude the chorus is meant in a sarcastic manner.

    12. I think it's great that Mr. Brownfield has an appreciation for the tone and spirit of Springsteen's new song.

      Because Bruce isn't espousing liberal or conservative values. Springsteen is singing about American values.

      It's unfortunate that Mr. Brownfield and others aren't able to hear what Springsteen is saying without attributing so much of their own bias to the interpretation.

    13. Mike says:

      It is actually a little more than that. With a little inside information about a backstage explosion by Bruce in late 2009 screaming and yelling profanities toward our benevolent dictator.

      Bruce NOW seems to be upset that the SOCIALIST utopia is not completed, when he states in the opening verse:

      I been knocking on the door that holds the throne
      I been looking for the map that leads me home
      I been stumbling on good hearts turned to stone
      The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone
      We take care of our own

    14. Gina says:

      You're kidding me, right?


    15. Robin says:

      This debate would be funny if it wasn't so sad, and some people's levels of self-delusion are frightening. "We Take Care Of Our Own" is pointing out the dichotomy between what what we as a society say and what we actually do.

    16. @taxkilla says:

      there is nothing more american than tax resistance!
      should be the subject of the boss' next song. http://www.taxkilla.com

    17. Bob says:

      you know, Swift didn't actually mean that the Irish should eat their own children. Mark Antony didn't actually mean that Brutus was an honorable man. And Bruce doesn't actually mean that we take care of our own…

    18. dave says:

      as a conservative and a big bruce fan from nj–i can say bruce's hatred for the right has no boundries—-this author could not be more wrong—every fiber in bruces body oozes far left liberalism—obama the socialist is his man—this song to me is his indictment of the conservatives–he feels conservatives has no sympathy for the poor and govt should do more——if i were the heritage group-i would retract this article because it makes you look so ill informed—-

    19. @MVPPresents says:

      Wow. This is hysterical. The only conservative value I'm aware of is Hate, and the comments here bear that out. it also appears that conservatives aren't very good at textual analysis. At least this author isn't. Keep trying, though!

    20. Dave says:

      Wow…you really didn't understand the song at all, did you?

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