Bruce Springsteen recorded an album of songs that dealt with the psychic fallout from the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Rising is by turns inspirational, angry, determined, and desolate. It is also one of the finest albums of Springsteen’s careers. I love this album not because it’s the same patriotic drivel that politicians were spouting as soon as they could open their mouths in front of a microphone. Springsteen doesn’t do patriotic drivel. (Don’t believe me? Try actually listening to the lyrics to “Born in the U.S.A”.) This is a visceral, agonized patriotism. This is someone who loves his country, despises the criminals who attacked it, and mourns the thousands of innocent lives lost. But he knows that the response is not fear and hatred toward the Other (in this case, Muslims and Middle Easterners). The only response that matters is to band together in love, to rebuild and repair the damage, to extend a hand of tolerance and fellowship to the world.
The Rising was released in 2002, but Springsteen was working on it immediately. Just a few days after the attacks, a televised benefit to raise money for the victims and their families aired on virtually every broadcast channel and many cable channels. I remember him playing this song that night. I felt like someone finally understood how I felt about it. I am not a New Yorker, native or otherwise, but for that little while, I felt like New York City was my city, too. My city of ruins.