In an A.V. Club review of Bruce Springsteen’s latest album, Wrecking Ball, Steven Hyden describes one track as a “stump speech.” Chris Richards, writing in the Washington Post, says we’ve always looked to Springsteen to “embody our hopes, validate our values, articulate our angst” — which are, roughly speaking, “the same qualities we seem to look for in a president.” It’s true: Wrecking Ball’s sentiments are uncommonly focused and constitute a rather more robust platform for the nation’s spiritual renewal than those Chrysler commercials where Clint Eastwood lectures you about America being half over. So in the democratic spirit, it seems only fair to cut out the interpretive middle-manning, and condense and edit the album’s lyrics into one address you can judge for yourself.
My fellow Americans,
We’ve been traveling over rocky ground. Trudging through the dark in a world gone wrong. Forty days and nights of rain have washed this land.
No rifles cut us down, no bombs fell from the sky — but just as sure as the hand of god, all them fat cats, vultures, and robber barons brought death to our home.
They destroyed our families’ factories, and they took our homes. Their crimes have gone unpunished; they walk the street as free men now. Up on Banker’s Hill, the party’s still going strong. If I had a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot ’em on sight.
What is this land, America? The banker man grows fat, the working man grows thin. The gambling man rolls the dice, the working man pays the bill. The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone.
What is this land, America? Where’s the eyes with the will to see? Where’s the promise, from sea to shining sea? We take care of our own? There ain’t no help.
Where you once had faith, now there’s only doubt.
We will be alright. We made the steel that built the cities with the sweat of our two hands. Hammer the nails, harvest your crops. Pull that engine apart until she’s running right. Freedom is a dirty shirt — the sun on your face and your shovel in the dirt. These hands built the country. The McNichols, the Polaskis, the Smiths, Zerellis too — the blacks, the Irish, the Italians, the Germans and the Jews.
They died in the fields and factories. They died in Maryland in 1877, when the railroad workers made their stand. They were killed in 1963, one Sunday morning in Birmingham. They died last year, crossing the southern desert, children left behind in San Pablo. But their spirits rise to carry the fire.
We stood the job, now we’ll stand the flood.
We’ll start caring for one another. We take care of our own.
I will provide for you, and I’ll stand by your side. Dreams will not be thwarted. Faith will be rewarded. A new day is rising.
Raise your children, teach them to walk straight and true. Pick up the rock, son, and carry it on.
Grab your ticket and your suitcase. Meet me in a land of hope and dreams.
I want everybody to stand up and be counted tonight. Hold tight to your anger, don’t fall to your fears.
There’s a new world coming. I can see the light.
Good night, and God bless America.