Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen’s new book “Renegades” comes out
On the bookshelf
Renegades: Born in the United States
By Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen
Crown: 320 pages, $ 50
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In 2008, an unlikely friendship began to blossom between a rock ‘n’ roll legend and an American politician. Barack Obama was campaigning to become the first black president of the United States and he invited Bruce Springsteen to give a concert at a rally in Ohio.
âI have had wonderful experiences performing these gatherings and appearances with you,â Springsteen told Obama in âRenegades: Born in the USA,â a collection of intimate and thoughtful conversations between president and boss, which s ‘presses the eight episodes of the duo. podcast series of the same name, released by Spotify earlier this year.
Released this week from Crown, “Renegades” features never-before-seen anecdotes as well as over 350 illustrations, photographs and historical documents, including copies of Springsteen’s handwritten lyrics and annotated drafts of old POTUS speeches.
Openly discussing race, music, masculinity, cultural appropriation, and nothing less than the American Dream, the couple come across as kind-hearted baby boomers – grateful for the changes that have marked their lives but realistic about the changes. limits of their generation and to future progress. to come.
“[You] gave me something that I could never give myself, âSpringsteen told Obama in the book. âAnd it was the diversity that was in the audience. I was playing with white faces and black faces, old people and young people. And that’s the audience I’ve always dreamed of for my band.
Obama, too, marvels at the evolution of his audience. Reflecting on last summer’s police brutality protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, he says it was “energizing” and gave him “hope” to see young people on the front lines of the racial justice movement .
âDuring the protest in the 1960s, it was a smaller group of young people who got involved,â Obama says. âBut what you’re seeing – and it’s holding up – seems to be a change in attitude that’s generational or generation-wide. I am encouraged by the willingness of young people not only to expose themselves “, but to ask themselves and their parents” difficult questions. Look inside and not just outside.
The New Jersey hitmaker continued with a question about how the old POTUS made peace with America’s contradictions – with the fact that “the same country that sent a man to the moon is Jim’s country. Crow “.
“I think part of it is because we never did a real math,” Obama replies, “and so we just buried a lot of our experience and our citizens in our minds.”
Repairs could be part of a possible calculation, he said. But he says âwhite resistance and resentmentâ made him inaccessible during his presidency and that while campaigning he preferred to pursue more practical political goals.
Progress is blocked, he adds, in a country which still struggles “to provide decent schooling for children in disadvantaged neighborhoods” – and where “the resentments, fears, stereotypes, tribal lines that are emerging in our countries remain very deep. “
These were the kinds of divisions he had intended to bridge during his life in politics. At the 2009 âBeer Summitâ, for example, he invited Harvard researcher Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley, the white police officer who arrested him outside his home in Boston, to have a conversation with him and then Vice President Joe Biden.
Instead, five years after leaving office, Obama faces the limits of incremental change, as President Biden’s grand agenda collides with the harsh realities of government in 2021.
“If our criminal justice system and the way we police are broken and we have to start all over again,” he asks, “Do we just have to say this, even if the country is not ready for it?” Even if you lose votes, even if you forgo the opportunity to make more gradual progress, is it worth it to just express this truth? “
Springsteen is also torn by the country’s position: âWe have always been too short for too many years, for too many of our citizens, and this inequality, social and economic, is a stain on our social contract. “
He tried to raise awareness where he could – through music. Springsteen recalls the tumultuous reception of his song “American Skin (41 shots)”, a response to the 1999 murder of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant from West Africa shot dead by police in the town of New York in the lobby of his apartment building.
The first time Springsteen performed the song, in June 2000 in Atlanta, “people gave a little clapping,” he recalls. But by the time they performed it at Madison Square Garden in New York City later that month, the band was making headlines on the New York Post. “[T]there was a lot of name calling, âhe told Obama.
Diallo’s parents introduced themselves and âwere so lovely. But just as the band started playing the song, the police rushed onto the stage. We took a lot of heat from the police for several years after that, which I always thought was the result of not really listening to the song.
This is just an anecdote in a larger conversation about the deep cracks in race, class, and politics that – they must admit – have continued to grow despite their best efforts.
âSo how do you think we can bridge these gaps? Obama asks.
Springsteen offers some âpracticalâ ideas: âpolitical connection across party lines; rediscover a common experience, love for the country, a new national identity that includes a multiracial image of the United States that is real today, rooted in common ideals.
âThese are hard, hard things to do,â he adds – and you can almost hear his weary grater from the world. “Whichever way we cut it, it’s a long walk home.”