Aging rocker and neo-sage Bruce Springsteen appeared in a two-minute Super Bowl that was cringe-worthy in its naïve self-seriousness, but on target in its moral and political prescription for a country in crisis.
I say that as a 45-year fan of Springsteen and his music who has always believed he takes himself too seriously.
Maybe the commercial sold a Jeep or two, since Jeep was the vague sponsor. And maybe a few people in the vast expanse between the ever-angry, ever-resentful, ever-demonizing political extremes were moved in an attitudinal way if not to action.
The commercial invoked the very center of the country, a rural church in Kansas, and said that America needed to put divisions aside to meet there metaphorically for a scaling of the mountain and to travel together on a brighter road ahead.
It was politically naïve truth wrapped in overwritten hokey.
But, as I have written recently, our nation’s debilitating political and cultural disease needs a period of healing. And healing would best be served by sane and reasonable people entering not into bipartisanship by which they try to split the differences of their ideologies, but into nonpartisanship.
We need to put ideology aside for a while to rescue and revive a functioning nation with a narrow focus on credibility and competence.
It’s a process that must circle wagons against the criminal insurrectionists of the right. But it also must pay no mind to the zealots of the hard left who say such things as that Joe Biden betrays them by meeting with moderate Republicans on maybe trimming around the edges of the size and scope of a covid relief package.
Critics on both extremes professed to be aghast that the commercial was telling them to meet evil in the middle. But the message was that evil is not the middle. It’s that evil can’t survive in the middle.
And, of course, the right pointed out that Springsteen is an affirmed celebrity liberal who has called Donald Trump a “moron.” But there is no hypocrisy in offering an accurate description of the obvious past along with a hopeful prescription for the uncertain future.
Trump is the enemy of the middle. If you don’t see that, then don’t join us in the middle, because you won’t like it and you will not be of any use to healing.
After a half-century of refusing to make any commercial endorsements, Springsteen agreed to Jeep’s overture because he saw the message as a “prayer for America.” And that, of course, got him attacked on social media by non-Christians who deplored the commercial’s church imagery and said that any middle-based unity ought to mean that America belonged to them as well.
Freedom of religion means America belongs to them, of course. It also means Springsteen may freely pray from a Christian church in Kansas if that’s the message and venue he chooses with Jeep’s money.
It is not an affront to a non-Christian that an old guy can’t shake his Roman Catholic roots as he contemplates the modern world. That he gets ostracized for it is precisely what he’s praying can be overcome in America.
Let a grown-old altar boy from New Jersey bring his innocently unescaped Roman Catholic perspective to our American family intervention.
And you bring your secular perspective.
And I’ll bring a self-styled and unescaped if reformed fundamentalist-value perspective from backwoods Arkansas.
And let’s see where a well-meaning, non-demonizing discussion might lead us.
If it happens during our discussion that Joe Biden and Susan Collins agree on some bill language that leaves out Bernie Sanders and AOC one way and Rand Paul and Tom Cotton on the other, then great.
Inclusiveness can only work among those willing to include and to be included.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com . Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.