In the spirit of your new album, this my letter to you. I’m writing because I have a few questions, as well as an offer I’d like to extend. My letter is sincere and not some cheap publicity stunt.
Your lyrics resonated. I know you’re used to hearing the familiar refrain, “the soundtrack of my life,” but in my case, it feels literal.
Allow me to quickly establish my bona fides. Growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and graduating high school with the class of 1980, you can guess that I had virtually no introduction to your music in my youth. You were not big on AM radio, and my friends and I were more inclined to spin the records of KISS, Zeppelin, and Nazareth, than we were those of the E Street Band.
That all changed in early 1985 when I took my first job after college with the U.S. Treasury Department and had my fellow trainee, Gary Westenhiser (a New Jersey native and huge “Boss” fan), introduce me to your music. Gary was tragically taken from us, far too young, but his love of your music lived on in me.
Your lyrics resonated. I know you’re used to hearing the familiar refrain, “the soundtrack of my life,” but in my case, it feels literal. My father really did have a big ole’ Buick that I’d steer as he drove through town. As we kids got older, sometimes at night we would meet at the head race of the power canal where barefoot girls would sit on the hood of a Dodge, and we’d drink beer in the soft summer rain. Other times, we’d head a bit further west to a beach along the St. Mary’s, and into the river we’d dive.
My parents, being a very middle-class family, never owned a new car. All our “new cars” were used. I swore someday that I’d never drive a used car again.
I was always very disturbed by how our politicians used our Armed Service Members during the Vietnam War. When I first heard Born in the U.S.A., unlike George Will in his famous Newsweek piece, I understood the lyrics and loved the song because of them, not in ignorance of them.
In all your lyrics, and with all the emotion with which you’ve sung them over the years, I’ve felt my own life somewhere in the melody. My wife and I have seen you in stadiums, we’ve seen you in arenas, we’ve seen you in concert halls. We saw you at Stand Up for Heroes, and we saw you on Broadway. Through it all, I’ve experienced this incredible connection to your music, and an inexplicable connection to a man I don’t even know.
But that connection, like a promise, gets broken when I turn my attention toward the realm of ideas and politics, especially these days. You and I do see some things the same way. I’ve often said that we seem to agree on almost every problem facing America—but disagree on almost every solution.
Whether it has been the neglect of the American worker, as witnessed by the disappearance of factory jobs in Youngstown, Ohio, or the involvement of the U.S. in endless foreign wars—wars we eventually decide aren’t ours anymore to win, or the power held by large corporations who wield it over every aspect of our daily life. You and I both typically see the same problems.
Our philosophical difference seems to be that I generally believe the solution to most of our problems lies in applying private sector ingenuity and individual choice, while you, it seems, believe that most of our problems need to be addressed through collective government action.
But our differences run deeper than just those over policy matters. Over the past four years, you have been a very vocal critic of our President, Donald J. Trump. I, however, have been a vocal supporter. While your “vocals” might reach a larger audience, I’ve managed to reach a fair few, and most of my lyrics are reasonably articulate.
That’s okay. I know we could work through those differences given the opportunity. All we might need would be a comfortable set of armchairs, a warm fireplace fire, a pot or two of strong black coffee, perhaps a whiteboard, and a couple of open minds. In the right setting, we just might be able to find compromise solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing problems.
I know—or, think I know—that you love this country. I’ve watched you stand on stage at Madison Square Garden and raise $750,000 in fifteen-minutes to benefit wounded soldiers—simply by auctioning off your guitar, a visit to your home studio, and some of your mom’s famous lasagna. Your contributions over the years to charities, raising money for worthy causes, are too numerous to mention. It’s no wonder that you were even awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Obama.
I HAVE A FEW QUESTIONS
You recently threatened to leave the country and move to Australia, should President Trump be re-elected.
Do you think supporters of the President are some menacing new breed of Americans, who have suddenly appeared on the scene to expose their closeted bigotry?
I love my country, like I believe you do. Physically unfit to wear a uniform, I served in the civilian ranks before moving on to the private sector. I am guessing that I was every bit as deeply offended by the ideas and the Presidency of Barack Obama as you have been over the Presidency of Donald Trump. President Obama did not embrace my values of individual liberty, private property, free markets, and Constitutional principles. I also felt he deliberately (and effectively) tried to divide our country based upon both class and race, two things I find abhorrent.
Yet, I never considered leaving the country I love. Why are you?
Is it because you don’t want to live in a country with people like me? People with whom you disagree?
Maybe I’m not what you think I am. Despite being a Trump supporter, I am the parent of an adopted mixed-race child, whom I love dearly. I’ve willingly brought talented minorities into my business practice. I have mentored people of color, as well as those of differing sexual orientations.
Do you think supporters of the President are some menacing new breed of Americans, who have suddenly appeared on the scene to expose their closeted bigotry? The reality is, we have always been here. We were here during Reagan’s Presidency, and we were here during Obama’s. Win or lose, we will still be here after Trump’s.
Is it because you think we are racists because we have a different view than you with regard to the fairest and most ethical ways to approach the issues of race, immigration, and sexual orientation?
Is it because you think we are people that hate the planet, just because we do not necessarily subscribe to the same ideas you do when it comes to the Earth’s changing climate? Most importantly, do you believe that you are in possession of all the facts on the issue, and that we are purposefully (and sinisterly) denying them?
Is it because you somehow have come to the conclusion that people who support the President are beneath you? Are we so hateful in your eyes that you cannot, or should not, attempt to reason through differences with us?
Or, after a long and storied career, are you just getting old and in need of a change of scenery?
I want to understand why you are on the verge of giving up on America. I want to understand why you seem to be saying that, if people like me disagree with you, you dislike us so much that you are willing to walk away from the country that you have devoted your entire life capturing through your music, capturing its very essence better than any singer/songwriter in history.
I’m also wondering what happens if, as you’ve predicted, Joe Biden wins?
Should the E Street Band tour again, will you only visit states that Biden carried? Will you punish your avid, life-long fans in red states? Will you reward enemies in blue states? We know that in the past, like with North Carolina, you have issued performance boycotts over differences in opinion. Are your conservative fans no longer entitled to your fandom?
Very Specifically I’d like to ask: Am I, or are people like me, still welcome at your concerts?
WHY DEMOCRATS AND NOT REPUBLICANS?
I’ve noticed over the years you seem reflexively to dislike Republicans. I’m not a big fan of the party either. That said, I’m wondering why you don’t like them? Surely it can’t be the adage that they are the party of the rich?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that those old battle lines were nothing but an elaborate lie: it is actually big business and big government joined against all the rest of us—the little guys.
For starters, that isn’t true anymore. The Democratic Party is now just as much (if not more so) the party of the rich, especially the ultra-rich. Further, if Republicans are the party of the rich, you yourself are ultra-rich. You haven’t done anything that would indicate an intention to renounce your wealthy status. You haven’t taken a vow of poverty. You haven’t voluntarily given your excess wealth to the government for redistribution. It would seem you must not mind maintaining your place among the one-percent.
I also know you are a fan of classic Russian literature. Anyone who reads Dostoyevsky is too intelligent to fall for the tired notion that the Democrats represent the “working man,” or the “little guy.”
Perhaps you still believe, as you and I were taught when we were young, that the Republicans are the party of big business, and that the Democrats and their government is fighting big business on behalf of that little guy? I, too, used to think that the great battle was business versus government. The difference was that I was cheering for business, and that was what made me a libertarian, at least for a while. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that those old battle lines were nothing but an elaborate lie: it is actually big business and big government joined against all the rest of us—the little guys. That’s what eventually led me to become a supporter of President Trump.
I’ve also noticed over the years that, while you are very critical of Republicans in general, and very critical about President Trump in particular, you do not seem to offer any specific policy ideas that would address the problems you see in America. In your public commentary, you tend to point the problems out, instead of showing us how to fix them.
I personally spend a good deal of time figuring out how to fix them. I’d enjoy hearing your ideas if you have some and are willing to share.
Here is my offer to you, one “boomer” to another.
I would like to invite you to a discussion, or a series of discussions, over these very issues. I do not want to debate! The country has had enough of those and, in our current climate of division, all that people watching debates do is cheer for their side. I envision an event where we take the issues facing America, one by one, and we see if you and I can find a way to solve the problem. See if we can find a way through—you, with your emphasis on government, and me, with my emphasis on individuals,
Perhaps if you engage someone like me in constructive dialogue designed to move our country forward together, you can redirect some of the anger you feel. Afterall, I’m angry, too! We are both angry over the state of our union. Let’s see if together we can do something constructive about it.
As you read this, you may think I’m off in some of my premises and assumptions, or naive in my suggestions. If so, enlighten me, don’t run from me—and, most importantly, don’t run from America.
Engaging me would beat a one-way plane trip overseas. But, don’t think I just have your best interests at heart here. My request is at once selfish one: I’d really enjoy at least one more American tour. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days simply dancing in the dark in this American land.