Bruce Springsteen (Getty Images )
I'm not going to try to persuade anyone that Bruce Springsteen is better than religion, but devotees of his music know what I mean.
We talk about discovering his canon the way people talk about religious conversions. As someone I was particularly fond of once told me, "I figured you can't be that bad of a person because you like Bruce."
Springsteen's unparalleled career will hit yet another peak Tuesday with the release of his new album, "Wrecking Ball," and I'm happy to report it's absolutely terrific, as lyrically powerful and musically interesting as anything he's done in his four-decade career.
Focusing on the post-Great Recession wreckage brought on by a financial system benefiting a privileged few, it has an anger and a violence to its characters and anti-heroes that channels all the rage and discontent of the times.
From "Shackled and Drawn" to "This Depression," the many narrators certainly express their inchoate rage that "up on Banker's Hill the party's going strong," but more importantly the Boss directly challenges the incredible deficit of empathy felt by the rest of us and the weird asymmetrical polarization of the body politic into a camp that has spent all of its influence trying to unravel our already tattered social safety net during the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
All it takes is a look at economic plans of the current crop of Republican candidates to see how this deeply shameful indifference has expressed itself politically.
Even the least-regressive plan offered by Mitt "Mittsanity" Romney essentially amounts to socialism for the rich. As Wonkblog's Ezra Klein explained, Romney essentially wants to take policies that offer support to the working poor (familiarize yourself with that term; it's where most of the country is headed) and "use them as a piggy bank for tax cuts." According to an analysis by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, Romney's plan would save the top 1 percent of income earners an average of $149,997 per year.
Forget how many Cadillacs Romney's wife owns or whether Rick Santorum thinks Satan is after him—that should be the scandal of the election.
Through the past four hard and remarkable years we've not only watched the economy suffer but witnessed an erosion of the idea that we are inexorably linked, that we owe each other something: that the schools on the South Side of Chicago matter because a child in them might one day either rob you or work in the cubicle next to you, that the highways in Ohio matter because your daughter might one day have her life saved by a guardrail, that the funding of Medicaid matters because you might one day have to care for a disabled sibling, that home heating oil subsidies matter because one day your friend's luck might run out and she will rely on that very inexpensive and simple subsidy to keep her family warm.
"Wrecking Ball" is an album about what it's like to be an American in these strange, anxious times, a threnody for, as the man says, the "distance between the American dream and the American reality."
REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR STEPHEN MARKLEY IS THE AUTHOR OF "PUBLISH THIS BOOK." REDEYECHICAGO.COM/MARKLEY