Keeping Faith in the USA

On Saturday June 14, Bruce Springsteen plays at the Millennium Stadium.
It will be his first concert in Wales, although he’s been coming to the UK since 1975.
Back then, a huge amount of hype surrounded his third album, Born to Run.
“At last, London is ready for Bruce Springsteen,” boasted the record company’s posters – some of which Springsteen himself climbed up onto billboards to rip down.
In 1984 and 1985 he rode the hype, and indeed contributed to it himself, for the Born in the USA album and tour, a period so overblown that for many it still dominates his image.
Hardcore fans, and he inspires dedication most artists can only dream of, know there is much more to him than that.
In his writing he’s covered every subject from the economic despair of many of America’s industrial heartlands, to the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the atrocities of September 11.
The plight of refugees, and immigrants to the United States from Mexico in particular, have been central to his work.
“For everything the North gives, it exacts a price in return,” warns one Mexican father as his sons head across the Rio Bravo.
Campaigning journalist John Pilger called Springsteen a “fine humanitarian artist”, real praise from someone who has charted so much that has gone wrong in US foreign policy.
In February 1999 a 22-year-old West African immigrant named Kadiatou Diallo died in a hail of police bullets in New York.
Springsteen wrote a song about it, causing the city’s police department to boycott his gigs at Madison Square Garden.
But where are the major artists covering the significant events in Britain’s social and political life?
Why did no artist see the 2005 shooting of unarmed Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes by London police officers as a subject for protest?
Billy Bragg has said: “Springsteen makes me keep faith in America”.
Bragg is a dedicated Springsteen fan. So are James Dean Bradfield, of the Manic Street Preachers, and Swansea-born comedian Rob Brydon, who already has his ticket for the Millennium Stadium gig.
And so am I.
I think we all need Bruce – not just America.

(Bruce fans go here.)

Ana Lucia Pinzon is the most senior female trade unionist in Colombia.
And being a trade unionist – of either gender – – in Colombia takes a special kind of courage. An estimated 2,600 have been killed over the last 20 years.
The US and the UK have poured weapons into this deeply divided country, claiming to be fighting a war against drugs.
But Justice for Colombia, a British-based NGO, and others, claim the weapons are instead used in a bloody counter-insurgency war.
And according to Amnesty International, all sides in the conflict, including the army and army-backed paramilitaries, have been “responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
I only know what I read. Ana will describe all this first hand when she gives a special talk at the Memorial Hall, Bodhyfryd, Wrexham, at 2.30pm on Saturday (June 7).

::First published in The Big Issue Cymru, June 2-8, 2008

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