"I've spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality." -Bruce Springsteen
The above quote sums up Springsteen music pretty well. For years I've been trying to explain my fascination for that man to my friends, who more than once looked at me and my borderline obsession quite bemused. I can assure you, I've never been able to capture him in one simple sentence. Unfortunately I'm much to verbose for that. Springsteen's association with Barack Obama makes perfect sense when you set it off against his work and that one sentence. If I were to over simplify Barack Obama, he'd become an image of hope. It has been argued that Obama has been more image than content. In a sense that is true. Senator Barack Obama's strong charisma radiates a hope that America hasn't seen as strong since the mythic Kennedy was president. In a sense his image is as grand (and maybe overblown) as Springsteen's "Promised Land." Obama's image touches something that's bigger than himself, in the same way Springsteen's songs touch that big vision. Barack Obama radiates the vitality and youth that is the American dream. A dream that quite a few of us Europeans are smitten with as well. With its sense that every man is created equal and should have an equal chance to achieve his or her goals, how can you not be?
Yet, as the quote betrays, between dream and reality there's a gap. A gap that these days seems to be widening rapidly. With the stock market crashing, Iraq an continued bloody mess and New Orleans still struggling to get back on its feet, many of us are scared. Truth tell, I'm scared, afraid that I'll learn more about the era the Joads came from than I bargained for. America's brand of capitalism seems to have stretched itself beyond its capacity and once more there seems to be an awful lot of truth in these words, "if America sneezes, the world catches a cold." America has been sneezing big time as of late. So while a lot of Europeans look at the American dream with a sense wonder, we look at the American reality with a sense of fear or apprehension. Often this is mistaken as a form of anti-Americanism in more conservative circles, but it simply isn't. The world has almost as much invested in the American dream as America itself.
The question is if Barack Obama can help restore that American dream. Strip away the image, a man remains, as vulnerable and prone to mistake as we all are. More importantly, as limited in capacity as we all are. Not one man can change society, it takes a nation to do so. Springsteen may claim that "One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down," but the current administration did it an awful lot of damage. Not just damage to the economy and its standing in the world, but to the spirit of America. Right now America needs a president that can built bridges, or rather that can inspire people to built bridges. I believe Barack Obama is that man. He has proved as much in Chicago with his community work, he has proved as much by building a grass roots movement that proved bigger and more powerful than the top brass in the Democratic Party. In the "Audacity of Hope" Barack Obama shows himself as a man of character, a man who is able to approach people with respect and leave room for other points of view. More importantly Obama demonstrates in his book sufficient concrete ideas on how to improve people's lives, he understands what the common American needs to achieve a base sense of quality in their lives and how to get it to them.
In the light of the current economic crisis, both his image and his practicality are important. Economy, for a large part, is based on trust. When consumers and investors start to get cold feet, start to loose faith, the economy shutters to a halt. Practical measures are needed and in recent days Obama proved he was able to recognize the severity of the economic crisis, recognize the measures that needed to be taken and inspire people to make difficult choices. If that isn't the measure of leadership, I don't know what is. So in short, I fully support Springsteen's endorsement of Obama. While all three rally shows were sober and not really all that special, none of these versions will ever become a definitive version, these performances do radiate that electrifying sense of promise and resilience that makes the man so inspiring in the first place. The context is what gives these rally shows their edge. In a few years from now they'll probably won't sound like anything special, but right now I find it enormously exiting to hear Springsteen chant "Yes We Can" along with a crowd that is bigger than the crowd of the average Magic show.
A short, but very cool samply. Bruce got introduced by John Glenn in Ohio. Glenn is one of those few people who really seen it all. So if he takes pleasure out of introducing our man, that means something right?
Download the full show in mp3 here
A small request, use mp3s for personal use only. Keep them in your iPod or on your computer but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.
Read the review from the Columbus Dispatch here