“The text has disappeared under the interpretation.”
June 21, 2024 11:56 AM   Subscribe

“There’s something really dangerous happening to us out there,” he told the audience. “We’re slowly getting split up into two Americas. Things are getting taken away from the people that need them and given to people that don’t need them.” from Red, White, and Misused: How “Born in the U.S.A.” Became an Anthem for Everything That It Wasn’t [The Ringer] posted by chavenet (20 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
See also: Mellencamp’s Pink Houses. Ain’t that America…
posted by Thorzdad at 12:17 PM on June 21 [7 favorites]


We sure invested a lot of blood sweat and tears into SE Asia 1965 - 1975 and got f--- all for this national commitment in return ('they're still there, he's all gone' indeed). An equivalent commitment to fixing up the nation for the boomers (they were age 6 to 24 in 1970) could have done economic wonders. Then we doubled and tripled down on this lost opportunity cost stupidity in our 2001-2020 occupations of Kabul & Baghdad. . .

I had John Ganz's excellent new book playing in my car on my holiday road trip this week and this theme was touched on:
Things are getting taken away from the people that need them and given to people that don’t need them.”
1978 was the pivot year for the US, when the top 1% had the smallest share of wealth. Reaganism was floated on a sea of debt:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=1plfc

so much economic underlayment is evident in that single graph (of total systemic debt to GDP). Volcker was brought into to fight agains the boomers leveraging themselves up, but once that fight was abandoned the 1980s was off to the races, with the first half of the 1990s being a refractory period as the financial system adjusted to the billions of malinvsetment and financial frauds committed
in the first wave of deregulation.

The US took a second bite of the deregulation apple with 1999's Gramm–Leach–Bliley followed up with letting the mortgage lenders run free in 2002-2007, which all blew up spectacularly in 2008 of course.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=1plgf

is people age 25-54 per manufacturing job, around 4 during the 1960s but over 5 in 1985.

That missing job is the subject of this song, what we had in the 1960s was gone in the 1980s, and the 1990-2010 globalization push has made it 10 to 1.

This would be a great thing if the wider tertiary/quaternary economy expanded to subsume the missing secondary employment (that's how we get Fully Automated Luxury Communism) but the economics didn't break that way in most places (SF Bay Area being the one trend-breaker here).

My Nazi BIL up in Idaho believes the Joos run everything and have sold the country out and will have us eating bugs this decade or next. This song dovetails in with all that mental programming fine.
posted by torokunai at 12:35 PM on June 21 [5 favorites]


When has the USA had less than 2 sides?

I think this is just two sides *both with power*. In this case, the strong steady-as-she-xenophobe USA is having its power challenged, and responding with panic.
posted by NotAYakk at 12:36 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Even when I was a kid in the Eighties, Reagan's use of that song baffled me. Yeah, let's enjoy the rah-rah, feel-good anthem!

Born down in a dead man's town
First kick I took was when I hit the ground
End up like a dog that's been beat too much
Til you spend half your life just coverin' up now


Now that's a song to sell cars to! Can't you just see Old Glory flap as you read those words?

Let's skip to the rousing end! Hit it, Boss!

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go


Truly, a flag-waving, Apple Pie and John Wayne song!

This is the least subtle song ever written. C'mon, people.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 12:39 PM on June 21 [16 favorites]


Also, every time some authority figure is about to give Bruce some shitty news, they call him 'son' first.
posted by box at 12:41 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


isn't that the point though

nothing gets past The Bad

even the anthems that would reveal and criticize The Bad simply get co-opted

you bring counter culture and we'll turn it into over-the-counter culture and sell it back to you, same as it ever was
posted by elkevelvet at 1:01 PM on June 21 [5 favorites]


Another perfect example of "Y'all don't wanna hear me, you just wanna dance
posted by drewbage1847 at 1:02 PM on June 21 [4 favorites]


There are a lot of people who just plain don't care what a song's words are, and latch on to the one or two words they do understand and assume that those two words are all you need to know ("Born in the USA", or "rockin in the free world" or what have you). They don't really care about the rest, especially if there's a goofy dance that goes with it or it's in another language or both. One of the most popular songs of the late 90s had total gibberish for the chorus.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:04 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


What they hear, excluding what they don't want to accept, as per with those types:

mumble mumble -- mumble mumblemumblemumble

mumble, mumble, mumblemumble...mumble

BOOOOOOOOORN IN THE YOU ESS AYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

mumblemumblemumble mumble mumble, mumble
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:15 PM on June 21 [4 favorites]


The decoupling of words and meaning is fucked, y'all.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:24 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" is another example. These days it's probably best known as performative patriotism in elementary-school concerts, but Guthrie actually wrote it as an angry response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America." Check out these two latter verses, which you never hear performed:
As I went walking I saw a sign there,
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing.
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
I first heard that story , of course, from Springsteen, in his introduction to his performance of "This Land is Your Land" on his live compilation. And while I'm a huge fan, it irks me no end that after that introduction, he didn't sing the key verses.

It was recorded four years before he released "Born in the USA," so I'd like to think that these days he'd sing the whole thing.
posted by martin q blank at 1:31 PM on June 21 [6 favorites]


(oops. it's also cited deep in the article. apologies for not reading through first.)
posted by martin q blank at 1:36 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Also cited deep in the article, 'Born in the USA (the Freedom Mix),' aka the 'they made a 12-inch dance mix out of it' mix.
posted by box at 1:58 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


One of the most popular songs of the late 90s had total gibberish for the chorus

that's what they WANT you to think
posted by pyramid termite at 2:14 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


The US took a second bite of the deregulation apple with 1999's Gramm–Leach–Bliley followed up with letting the mortgage lenders run free in 2002-2007, which all blew up spectacularly in 2008 of course.

Not sure I agree with any of that. Mortgage lenders did not 'run free' in 2002, that's all wrong. Or if they did, WTF are housing prices 10X as high and homelessness worse? Didn't cutting off all those losers with their too high loans for their incomes fix things?

Also who gives a dang if manufacturing work fell per person? Manufacturing jobs are not all jobs. The unemployment rate was spiky, with Volcker's time making it worse, because that's how assholes lower inflation - lay off a bunch of people. Guess when Springsteen wrote the song?

Thank god we have Jerome Powell and Janet Yellen instead of those monsters, who realize that poor people aren't the problem. That's why nobody wrote a 2022 'Born in the USA' hit song.

And it's not that hard to figure out why this is a conservative hit: Bruce mush-mouths the lyrics and shouts the chorus.

Alternatively, they understand the lyrics and the content fine, they simply agree with it non-ironically. See also: Killing in the Name of by Rage Against the Machine.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:18 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


There are a lot of people who just plain don't care what a song's words are, and latch on to the one or two words they do understand and assume that those two words are all you need to know...

I think it was Instacart, a couple of years ago, that was using No Diggity in their TV commercials, cueing on the chorus “I got to bag it up.” I mean, someone at both the agency and Instacart had to know the lyrics. But, no one cared, I guess.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:53 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Just about every song in the record is full of darkness and loss lyrically, although the music tends to be bright. It's one of the greatest headfakes ever recorded. "Now I work down at the carwash/Where all it ever does is rain" is one of the saddest lines ever.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:55 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


>Mortgage lenders did not 'run free' in 2002

WaPo: Regulatory Failure at the Office of Thrift Supervision

the introduction of NINJA/SI-SA lending, 80% firsts paired with 20% (or even 23%) seconds, and interest-only and even negative amortization pushed prices well past any sanity by 2006.

>WTF are housing prices 10X as high

price-to-rent ratio hit 128 in Q1 2006 and is now pushing 140. Wall Street wasn't buying up housing stock in the 1980s but they've been active on that now, especially after being able to pick up so many cheap properties in the GFC aftermath.

Things are indeed nuttier now in price level terms than then but the key difference is the Bush Economy was being actively floated by home equity liberation:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=1plCp

is consumer credit expansion / total wages, showing how we were literally borrowing our way to prosperity 2002-2006. Greenspan dropping interest rates after 9/11 got the home appreciation train rolling again, and then all the deregulation in the above WaPo story link turbocharged the process.

(but there's been no big, sustained flood of credit this decade)

Relative to 1984, you can see the Volcker repression in the above graph as high interest rates really put a pause on lending 1980-83.


> homelessness worse

the rent is too damn high . . . we have 80M boomers (all in their 60s and 70s now) who are now mostly all overhoused while the boomer echo aka Gen Y Millennials are all out of college and need their own places.

Rents were pretty damn cheap in the early 80s vs now. $500 ($1500 in today's money) could get you a very nice apartment in West LA back then . . . actual West LA rents are now 2X that.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=1plFc shows the rent vs income trend since 1984. Helluva treadmill; don't fall off or you're f---ed.
posted by torokunai at 3:19 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of people who just plain don't care what a song's words are, and latch on to the one or two words they do understand and assume that those two words are all you need to know ("Born in the USA", or "rockin in the free world" or what have you). They don't really care about the rest, especially if there's a goofy dance that goes with it or it's in another language or both. One of the most popular songs of the late 90s had total gibberish for the chorus.

*nod

"Take Me to Church" by Hozier springs to mind.

Also Cohen's "Hallelujah"

Reeeaal strange to run into those two being played by right wing Christians. And yet...
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:50 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


@Jane the Brown: The singer at the COVID memorial hosted by the Bidens in 2020 performed "Hallelujah" and I just could. not. finish watching the ceremony after that happened.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 4:34 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


« Older Barcelona bans Airbnb (etc.) by 2028   |   "We get dirty and the world stays clean" Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.