In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Bruce Springsteen talks about his view of America today and what is in our future.
Speaking more clearly and eloquently than any politician ever would or could about the real social and political issues plaguing the country.
On America today:
I’m optimistic as far as people go and pessimistic as far as the government goes, for pretty clear reasons. In 2006, the American people said “Throw these bums out!” They would have voted Bush out at that moment if they could have. There was a clear message about the war in Iraq, and yet we sit here today with no front-running presidential candidate on either side who’s going to take us out of there…….To think that the country could veer this far rightward or that no one has addressed poverty since Lyndon Johnson – with the exception of John Edwards, who makes it a big part of his campaign – I find that disappointing. I don’t believe you can create a great society, a real American civilization, with an enormous percentage of the people in the country suffering, left out, disempowered. And isn’t that what we’re trying to do? Wasn’t that the idea when those guys sat down at the start?
On issues facing America over the next 20 years:
Race, poverty – those things get lost, and not unintentionally, through the use of other issues. There is an issue with national security that’s real. But the movement has been toward a plutocracy. People say, “We’re in a second Gilded Age.” There’s a price to pay for that. It weakens the foundation of the country, and it denies us freedoms, denies us connection with our own neighbors and citizens. Those are big issues that have failed to be addressed for so many years.
Race and poverty clearly are major issues. And what’s so disappointing is that they were major issues forty and fifty years ago, yet at least then they were part of the national conversation. It feels as though the conversation about those things has stopped at this point.
I’ll tell you when it wasn’t stopped – when a guy that doesn’t care that much about it had to say something about it. When people turned on the television during Hurricane Katrina and said, “Where did all those poor people come from?” And why wasn’t it stopped then? Because you were seeing them. This is an explosive issue that is hidden on a daily basis intentionally by the dynamics of the system. And you could feel its explosiveness when you saw those images, those people. The president had to come out and say, “Uh . . . we’ve got to do something about that poverty.” Then that was the last you heard of it. It shamed people. It shamed him. Not easy to do. It shamed us as Americans. Those are issues that need to be addressed.
How do you think this time will be remembered forty years from now?
Many parts of it will be remembered with the same degree of shame as the Japanese internment camps are remembered – illegal wiretapping, rendition, the abuse of prisoners, cutting back our civil rights, no habeas corpus. I don’t think most people thought they’d ever see the country move far enough to the right to see those things happen here. And I don’t believe those are things that strengthen us. The moral authority to stand up and say, “We are the Americans,” is invaluable. It’s been deeply damaged, and it’s going to take quite a while to repair that damage, if we can.
This will be remembered as a low point in American history – as simple as that. People are going to go, “Was everybody sleeping?” But people get frightened, and when they get frightened, they get crazy. You wonder where political hysteria can take you – I think we’ve tasted some of that.
All I want to do is be one of the guys that says, “When that stuff was going down, I threw my hat in the ring and tried to stand on what I felt was the right side of history.”