I have to express some admiration for the risky choices made by the musical director of the downtown July 4th show. I just wonder if they were intentionally picked.
The first song was Springsteen's "Born In The USA," which Ronald Reagan commandeered into a rousing modern fist-punching nationalist anthem. It must have been surprising to The Boss, who wrote the song inspired by reading Born on the Fourth of July. The song is principally about the tragedy of the Vietnam War and the plight of veterans returning to the States and finding their jobs gone, insufficient mental health services, and a lack of empathy from the population. Not exactly "God Bless America," is it?
The second musical offering was Neil Young's "Keep On Rockin' In The Free World," which is one of the most critical commentaries on American society ever penned! It speaks, in order, of: gangs, homelessness, religious zealotry, child abandonment by a drug addict, homelessness again, armament, consumerism, pollution, and our dependence on fossil fuels! Hardly makes you want to salute the flag.
The third selection was "American Woman" by the Guess Who, which perhaps - if had been more completely named "American Woman Stay Away From Me!" - would never have been chosen for a Fourth of July fete. Need I say more? Okay, I'll let the Guess Who say it: "I don't need your war machine, I don't need your ghetto scenes!" The song is all about a desire to abandon America.
Now I would like to think that these choices were a political commentary suggesting how we Americans could improve the social state of this great nation. Each is a brilliant, pointed and honest look behind the "Thousand Points of Light" that can blind us, much like technicolor fireworks exploding in the night sky, to the real problems we have to solve in this country. (Need we recall that the fireworks symbolize war: the "rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air?")
I'd like to think that the opening trio of songs were a counter-balance to the usual flag-waving themes that we are so used to hearing on the Fourth. But I suspect that in reality the person who chose those three messages never looked a single word beyond the catch phrase of the chorus, and thought that being "born in the USA and rockin' in the free world with an American woman" sounded like a damned good time!