How could this have happened? How did millions of Americans listen to this song, listen to the lyrics and come away with such a different feeling than the writer intended? Instead of being disappointed and angry with their country, Americans embraced this song, it made them proud to be Americans.

 

I believe the answer takes us back to the core of what it means to be an American. Forget about what you see on TV, what you hear in the media. Go back to when you were growing up. What did America mean to you? You might not have thought about it in those terms, but think back. Who did you root for, the underdog or the team that you knew was going to win? (Why do so many people hate the NY Yankees?) Who intrigued you more, the self made millionaires or the aristocrats? When you told someone what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did they say? “Hey, if you work hard, you can be whatever you want to be” was the standard answer. In much of the world, that isn’t the answer you would get, or if someone did say it, the examples around you would tell you it just wasn’t likely to happen. America is different. You are surrounded by people who worked hard and made something of themselves from nothing. Many of them will tell you stories about how they hit bottom, lived out of their cars, and came back to be a success. It can be done and we admire those who make it happen. Little pity is given to someone who falls and stays down, instead, we get behind those that fall and get back up. We help them, we celebrate their achievements, they become our role models. It’s what we do, it’s what we are.

When Americans heard this song… “Born down in a dead man’s town, the first kick I took was when I hit the ground” … we heard an underdog. We heard someone to get behind, someone to root for. Where the song lyrics end… “Nowhere to run, aint got nowhere to go” … Springsteen’s vision ended, but not ours. In Springsteen’s interpretation we are left with a sad soul that has no chance in a country that didn’t care. What most Americans heard was a man trying to get back up, to fight to make something of himself in a country where that is not only possible, but likely. He’ll struggle, he won’t get many hand outs, but he’ll get what he needs if he has a mind to. We’re behind him, we want him to make it and we’re proud to live in a place where he’ll be able to do it.

Bruce, I am proud to be Born In The USA. Happy Birthday America!