Political Songs and Government
Born in the USA was written by Bruce Springsteen in 1981 after being inspired by a movie script sent to him called “Born in the USA” (Konow & Mercurio, 2015). Springsteen’s song was written with the Vietnam war in mind and the plight of the Vietnam Veteran and average working class kid being sent off to war. The song starts off talking about being “born in a dead man’s town”—a line that could symbolize two things, a town named after a long-dead person or a town that is literally a dead end for hopes and dreams. The song proceeds to describe how hard life is for someone growing up in a dead town—everyone goes around like a beat dog, just trying to survive. Yet the country is so cruel that when one gets into a little trouble the punishment does not fit the crime: the singer describes getting into a “hometown jam” and being sent off to war to fight in Vietnam as a result. The reason for the war is never given—only that the American is tasked with killing the “yellow man”—nothing else is told. The song proceeds to talk about the loss and pain suffered as a result of fighting in and being a veteran of the Vietnam War. The song was written half a decade after the Vietnam War ended, so Springsteen had had time to see how the veterans were treated in America. His song is not so much a celebration of America, as the refrain might make some think it is—some kind of anthem for American greatness—but rather it is sad eulogy for the American Dream: the American reality is that people are suffering and the working class men and women, those in every town, those who fought, those who lived and those who died—they are all human beings, and their humanity is being stripped out of them by an America that has become ruthless in its approach to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The song indicates that those things are not possible for the little man—for what awaits the little man is the jail, the refinery, the aimless road, the lost family.
Springsteen is effective at addressing issues that were apparent in the U.S. at the time. The VA was not helpful, vets were suffering from trauma. A generation had been scarred. The same kinds of issues are here again today, with so many vets returning from the Middle East, suffering from PTSD and on the brink of suicide (Ames et al., 2018). The government can act to…
Ames, D., Erickson, Z., Youssef, N. A., Arnold, I., Adamson, C. S., Sones, A. C., ... & Oliver, J. P. (2018). Moral injury, religiosity, and suicide risk in US veterans and active duty military with PTSD symptoms. Military medicine, 184(3-4), e271-e278.
Konow, D. & Mercurio, J. (2015). Transformation in Art: The Films of Paul Schrader. Retrieved from https://creativescreenwriting.com/transformation-in-art-the-films-of-paul-schrader/
Lyrics to Born in the USA
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