Music News

When it comes to Bruce, David Brooks misses the point

Certain liberals will try to tell you that Europeans are more cultured than Americans, that Europeans are refined people who sip tea in fancy ways and visit their various art museums while Americans are fat, vacuous slobs who lap up asinine sitcom entertainment like the grape-flavored corn syrup they enjoy drinking. And that may be true. But to those people I also say this: Enjoy your rock-and-roll music and your Big Macs, Europe, because we all know you love our shit. Your culture is dead! In your face, France! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Now, obviously, New York Times columnist David Brooks is no liberal, so I'm assuming that's what he was trying to say when he wrote last week about going to see a Bruce Springsteen show in Spain. Unfortunately, Brooks got it completely wrong pretty much from his opening sentence. "They say you've never really seen a Bruce Springsteen concert until you've seen one in Europe," Brooks writes, "so some friends and I threw financial sanity to the winds and went to follow him around in Spain and France." Oh, totally, David Brooks, it's like at my yacht and polo club, they say you've never really played polo until you've played it on a yacht. A lot of horses die, but sometimes you and some friends have just got to throw financial sanity to the wind, amiright?

At any rate, once Brooks got to the European Springsteen show, it turned out it wasn't the Boss that ended up interesting him; it was his fellow peasant concert-goers. "The oddest moment came in midconcert," Brooks recalls, "when I looked across the football stadium and saw 56,000 enraptured Spaniards, pumping their fists in the air in fervent unison and bellowing at the top of their lungs, 'I was born in the U.S.A.! I was born in the U.S.A.!'" Which is a thing Brooks can't figure: "Did it occur to them at that moment that, in fact, they were not born in the U.S.A.?" Brooks ruminates.

It's hard to be certain, because clearly it's impossible to think of the situation in reverse. Because why would we? The idea of 56,000 Americans singing along to a foreign performer in a different language is inconceivable. Foreign things, as everyone knows, are inferior. But if I had to venture a guess, I'd say they were probably just singing along to the words of a song they knew, even if those words in their case were lies. Or maybe not.

Brooks's "best theory," in any case, involves a lot of who gives a crap because it's boring and who cares. But on this Independence Day 2012, there is, nevertheless, a lesson we can draw from Brooks's experience: If "Born in the U.S.A." can get 56,000 foreigners to unwittingly pledge their allegiance to America, it either means the Boss is the greatest thing ever or America is the greatest thing ever. Probably both.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte