The 4th of July

July 4th, 2019

“Born down in a dead man’s town
The 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 covering up
Born in the U.S.A
I was born in the U.S.A
I was born in the U.S.A
Born in the U.S.A
Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man
Born in the U.S.A
I was born in the U.S.A
I was born in the U.S.A
I was born in the U.S.A
Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man said “son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “son, don’t you understand”
I had a brother at Khe Sanh fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now
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.”



from “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen (1984)


Nothing has changed.


Thirty-five years ago, Springsteen was singing about a Vietnam vet struggling to deal with his past and his present. Nowhere in the song are there words about any kind of a future. The song was a big hit back then, because it rocked so hard, but I really wonder how many people actually paid attention to the lyrics.


Somebody could easily remake the song by tweaking a few of the words. Instead of talking about fighting the “yellow man” or the “Viet Cong”, just say “terrorists” or “the Hajjis”. My son, Hans, could tell all sorts of stories about how they “put a rifle in my hand” and “sent me off to a foreign land”. Hans went to Iraq. He got shot. He killed people. He has never really came back from there. Nobody comes back. Ever.


I went to the psych ward at the VA hospital on Tuesday night. I go there almost every Tuesday, and I hang out with the vets who are patients. Most of the folks in the ward were not in combat, but they are still veterans. Somehow, the military shattered their minds, and now the VA is trying to put the pieces back together. I feel close to them. They are my brothers and sisters.


Today there are American flags waving all along my street, but not at my house. I will never hang a flag here. As long as we keep sending our kids to kill and die in other countries for no good reason, I will not fly a flag.


Not even on the 4th of July.




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