Word has it that churlish New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dances in the dark to Bruce Springsteen in concert. Will wonders ever cease? Has he heard the screen door slam? Has he gone down to the river? Has he seen the darkness on the edge of town? Was he born to run? I don't think so.
Born to run for office, maybe, but not in the Springsteen sense of the word. Leaving aside questions of gubernatorial gravitas and a bright future on the Republican party presidential ticket, Christie seems to contradict himself very well, to summon another bard who spent some time in New Jersey.
But, the Atlantic reports, the Republican governor of New Jersey is a Springsteen devotee who has attended 129 shows, some with state troopers in tow—which is sort of a show-stopper. The real cut for Christie is that Springsteen, the lyrical mythmaker of New Jersey whose subject is the dark side of chasing the American dream, has snubbed him.
The iconic singer of the most bittersweet ballads and rock n' roll songs doesn't want to hang as just two Jersey guys: out on the streets of Atlantic City or Asbury Park. Or anywhere at all. As someone who knows the songbook and has heard Springsteen play in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Washington, I am not surprised. So many of Springsteen's songs are infused with personal meaning on the price people pay for loss and alienation: "Talk about a dream/try to make it real/Spend your life waiting/for a moment that just don't come."
Christie may know the words, but the melody and meaning, not so much. (I will admit he must have more of a soul than Mitt Romney.)
In fact, though they briefly met once or twice, Springsteen won't even talk to his 49-year-old fan, Jeffrey Goldberg writes in the magazine. Silence can say it all. Here it says loud and clear that Christie is a force for a broken dreams and shattered lives in their shared state.
"He knows every word to every Springsteen song," Goldberg writes of the "fist-pumping" Christie, whom he witnessed rocking out to the tune of "Badlands" live and in concert, the defiant anthem against dispossession's daily bread. The song's voice declares that somehow, some way, they will stay 'till "these badlands start treating us good." Its famous line: "That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive."
Good luck with that in New Jersey now. Under Christie, it's known for dangerous halfway houses for those leaving prison, crumbling infrastructure he refused to upgrade with federal funds, and reduced social services. And, in Springsteen's lyric, "there ain't that much work on account of the economy."
What rankles me most is that Christie seems to want his cake and to eat it, too. He sounds complacent when he speaks of Springsteen's work as an artist he embraces, but suggests Springsteen doesn't understand the hard work of political budget-cutting. He sounds as if he's the bigger person—and yes, the corpulent Christie is bigger. Yet he's dead wrong to suggest that if they sat down to talk, then Springsteen would see, as he put it, "We disagree on a lot less than he thinks."
There's one Springsteen song that is Christie all over, that he can keep: "Born in the U.S.A."
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