Springsteen, Faith and Looking Up in 2022
Facing the storms ahead.
Happy New Year?
If you haven’t yet rung in 2022 by seeing the Netflix film Don’t Look Up, consider doing so asap.
Directed, co-produced and co-written by Adam McKay, who also gave us The Big Short and Vice, it’s an over-the-top, hilarious, heartbreaking and bang on critique of our times…in a giant-comet-is-going-to-smash-into-the-earth-and-wipe-out-humanity sort of way.
Some summaries of the movie call it an attack on climate change denialism. True enough.
But it’s also about Trump, politics, pop culture, social media, commercial media, Covid, corporate greed, Silicon Valley and Americans. Its brilliance flows partly from the fact that so many scenes are both ridiculous and realistic.
Despite my praise for Don’t Look Up, the point of this post is not to pull the plug on hope. Quite the contrary. Yes, we can’t deny the many exhausting, daunting messes we’re in, simultaneously skewered and spotlit by the flick. But let’s take all that as a starting rather than end point for how we respond to them.
Which brings us to Springsteen
You need not be a Bruce Springsteen fan to appreciate that some of his music rings true these days. I named this blog after one such song, “The Promised Land,” for that reason.
I’ve probably seen him play the song in about 20 concerts over the years. But back in 2002, at his Tacoma Dome show, it hit me harder than ever. The anthem’s refrain, “And I believe in a promised land,” punched with particular power in an America still reeling from 9/11.
Twenty years later, these lyrics from the song are also hitting home:
Well there’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain’t got the faith to stand its ground
For years, I mistakenly thought Bruce sang “strength” rather than “faith” in that verse’s closing line. But I now see how faith makes much more sense. So much of his music is about that. Not blind or religious faith. But faith in the face of death, denial and despair. Without it, we lose track of life, truth and hope.
Which brings us to 2022
A year ago, we said good riddance to 2020, with the notion that 2021 would be much better. A demagogue had been defeated. His insurrectionist mob shocked us. But January 6 seemed like something temporarily rabid, rather than the reflection of machinations we now know to be far more systematic, sustained and sinister.
Even as recently as the hopeful, halcyon days of last July, “only” 250 Americans were dying daily from Covid (as opposed to five times that today). We assumed so many folks would welcome vaccinations that we might achieve herd immunity and pulverize the pandemic. We imagined that, come 2022, America could pretty much leave Covid behind, that we could face life without facemasks.
July now seems like ages ago.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the challenges ahead. But choosing despair is no choice at all.
Which brings us back to faith
From Covid to democracy to weather to whatever, 2022 will be a tempestuous year for the United States and the world. I’ll discuss details, as well as some rays of hope, in posts to come.
For now, I’ll leave it at this: Whether we can stand our ground in the face of America’s coming storms could well hinge on our retaining or regaining faith.
Faith in ourselves. Faith in the power of looking up rather than down. And perhaps most of all, faith in the promise of this land.
Benicia resident Stephen Golub offers excellent perspective on his blog, A Promised Land: Politics. Policy. America as a Developing Country.
To access his other posts or subscribe, please go to his blog site, A Promised Land.