In 1984, Ronald Reagan famously used Bruce Springsteen’s song Born in the USA as a campaign song, calling it a “message of hope” about making “dreams come true.” In fact, the song is an angry anti-war song about Vietnam. And now the Republicans are flipping out at Springsteen for singing another anti-Vietnam war song at a Veteran’s Day concert.
Springsteen, Dave Grohl and Zac Brown sang the song Fortunate Son, written by Vietnam veteran John Fogerty and done originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival, at the Concert for Valor in Washington, DC and the Weekly Standard threw a fit:
Who would have thought that that Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown, accomplished musicians all, would be so, well, tone-deaf? But how else to explain their choice of song—Creedence Clearwater’s famously anti-war anthem “Fortunate Son”—at the ostensibly pro-military “Concert for Valor” this evening on the National Mall?
The song, not to put too fine a point on it, is an anti-war screed, taking shots at “the red white and blue.” It was a particularly terrible choice given that Fortunate Son is, moreover, an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the song does not “take shots” at the “red, white and blue,” it takes shots at those who worship the flag and use it as the symbol of their alleged patriotism while sending young men to die in wars started by lies (remember, the Vietnam war began with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, when our government invented an attack on an American warship to invade the country). It’s a song about chickenhawks and their children supporting wars but refusing to go fight in them. It is absolutely pro-soldier.
But for the right wing, patriotism is nothing but mindless cheerleading. It’s not about demanding that your country do the right thing and live up to its stated principles. It’s not about making society more just and fair and equal. It’s only about tribalism, flag-waving and getting all weepy-eyed at Lee Greenwood songs. Far from being tone-deaf, it’s the perfect song to sing at a concert honoring those in the military. So is Born in the USA.