To live a long enough life in a place founded, in part, on violence and volatility is to know that long life may depend on someone else walking through a door you wanted no part of. Or to know that the heroes from your hometown never made it out because war got to them first. Stripped to its barest bones, “Born in the U.S.A.” asks a listener to recognize that human survival is not something we can count on. The song matters now in a different way than it did in 1984, largely because of the artist behind it: Springsteen, trying to wrestle not only with the song’s current legacy but also with how it might be co-opted decades from now, when he won’t be around to make sure people understand the ache behind the song’s fury.
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