Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Perspectives of Veterans' Day

So for the long weekend my friend Mark flew in to see Bruce Springsteen last night in DC. We spent a good portion of Saturday wandering around DC, and we stopped by the Vietnam War Memorial to see the setup for the ceremony the next day honoring the 25th anniversary of the Wall. i've been there several times before, but never around a major commemorative holiday. i'm sure you've seen the photos of what the Wall's like when it's packed with veterans. The entire city, in fact, was swarming with vets, especially my neighborhood, right by the Iwo Jima memorial and Arlington Cemetery. They were easy to pick out, because they all had on jackets with loads of patches, buttons, slogans, and insignia. i'm not used to seeing Vietnam vets like that - most of the ones i've dealt with weren't particularly ostentatious about their service or were schizophrenic. i've met plenty of WWII vets who are always in their neatly creased hats with the appropriate pins, but Vietnam? Not so much.

Anyway, the Wall was crowded with people and memorials. One of the more surreal things we saw was a pair of American vets talking to a pair of Vietnamese vets, comparing notes on the M16. There was also a podium where people were reading out a list of the people killed in Vietnam over a loudspeaker. i've only seen that on Yom HaShoah at Wash U or in New York on 11 September. The names were mostly just a blur, but as one reader worked through her list, she prefaced one of the names with "my brother..." with no noticeable change in her tone. It was jarring.

Last night, we fought the crowds and ridiculously high scalper prices to get pretty good GA spots at the Springsteen show - the equivalent of about thirty rows back, dead center. Now, it's not a Springsteen show without some politickin', and he held true this time. Given the main themes of his latest album, it's not surprising that much of what he mentioned was topical: habeas corpus, renditions, the Iraq war. He also brought in a number of veterans from Walter Reed hospital for the show, since he played in DC on the actual Veterans' Day (Sunday, the eleventh) and the observed holiday (Monday).

The most striking song of the night (other than "Thunder Road" - yay!) was his closing song, "American Land." i've linked the lyrics here, and i'll note that it's the only song on his previous album that he actually wrote; the rest were mostly covers of Pete Seeger songs. i have this comprehension problem where i can't really understand words i hear unless i can see someone speaking them, which means that i frequently don't get song lyrics. For "American Land," however, they scrolled the lyrics on the JumboTron (or whatever the hell it's called), and i finally realized the very pointed references to immigration. Let's hope some of the yuppies there were listening.

i was trying to weave these stories together into some big contrasting view of of the holiday, but i think i'm a bit too tired to pull that off. Instead, i'll just end with one of the best sights of last night: as Mark and i were walking towards a Metro station, the band's motorcade passed us with a full escort of DC cops, and i got to see the Boss hang out the passenger side waving at us, with his fro flying everywhere. Good times!


  1. That's awesome. I love his song, "Down in Jungle Land." I listened to quite a bit of Springsteen last fall, but his songs are so emotional, they take their toll on you after a while.

  2. I want to vote in the poll! I think you're going to Dubai. I watched a documentary on Dubai a few weeks ago and it is basically a Western version of the Middle East on steriods....huge, fast-growing, incredibly modern, but run by people with sheets covering their heads. Did you know they are constructing what will be the tallest building in the world there? And they are actually making islands by depositing sand in shallow parts of the ocean just off the coast and building resorts on them. It's mind-blowing.

    That's the place where I would want to be.