Nothing New to See Here

Dubyah

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — While the talking heads on the tube were all aghast at the news of ultra-rich people scamming to get their kids into “elite” schools, I’ll pulled my shoulders out of my sockets – again – with a shrug.

As long as Bruce Springsteen wasn’t implicated, which I highly doubted, I was good.

And really, the news was not news at all.

It certainly wasn’t breaking news, largely because this drill of our culture catering to lifestyles of the rich and famous has left us all broken.

The rich getting over, usually at the expense of the poor, is one of the world’s oldest professions – right up there with, well, the world’s oldest profession.

I’m reminded of a line in the movie “Platoon” where the Charlie Sheen character, Taylor, is admonished by a black soldier, King, that, “the poor are always getting (bleeped) over by the rich. Always have. Always will.”

Emphasis on always.

As in always.

platoon1

It’s a reason I don’t get into tongue-clucking mode when a kid from a poor or middle class background gets a 6-year, $11 trillion contract — with a $34.5 billion guaranteed signing bonus – to put a ball through a hoop or hit a ball with a wood club over a fence from some filthy rich owner trying to outbid other filthy rich owners.

Turnabout, in these rare instances, is fair play.

But these are rare instances.

For the most part, it is the other way around, and we should not be surprised by the latest scam.

Maybe the national networks saw it as a chance to talk about something other than All the President’s Men II, but it is really all connected.

While your president (not mine) signs bills to be unforgiving with the student loan debt that almost all of the rest of us needed to keep literal pace with the Joneses, let’s look at his disloyal highness as a prime example.

He got into Penn (after a stint at Fordham).

How did that happen?

It’s all a bit murky, but Penn clearly seems less than boastful about an alum in the White House than he is about being a Penn alum in the White House.

Though barely remembered by professors or fellow students, he somehow walked away on his bone spurs with an economics degree (transcript sealed).

trump11-horiz

And his kids – the spawn of the bible-signing devil – all managed to gain entry into elite schools: Donald Jr. (Penn), Ivanka (Georgetown, Penn), Eric (Georgetown) and Tiffany (Penn, Georgetown).

Meanwhile, our first lady entered America on an Einstein visa (insert laugh track).

George W. Bush? Not quite the sharpest tool in anyone’s shed, and yet he went to Yale.

There are pictures of “Dubya” as a male cheerleader, so there is more evidence of involvement in student life that that of your president (not mine), but you still have to wonder how he landed there – given the fact that he is, well, him.

“Dubya” – despite a middling 77 average at Yale – moved on to Harvard Business School.

See, there was an open rule on the books that students were grandfathered into these place based on bloodlines – as in blood of the blue variety.

A rule? Yes, a rule. Talk about an exclusive country club where the poor kids earn their way in on tips from parking the cars.

George H.W. Bush went to Yale. So did his father before him, Prescott Bush.

Sensing a pattern here?

And it’s not limited to just Republicans.

The Kennedys all went to Harvard (Ted even got booted for cheating and then somehow reemerged after a military stint).

The difference, as opposed to the current “first” family, is that they were clearly edified enough by their Ivy League schooling to master critical and nuanced thinking skills.

There are zillions of more examples of how rich people made sure their offspring, deserving or not, were inserted into the race a few laps ahead of a field trying to run it honestly.

On its face, creating something better for the next generation — if only in enlightenment — is at the soul of what’s left of the American dream.

Anything beyond that, and we see how badly the system is broken.

This new twist on it, though fairly elaborate and so slimy that it makes you want to take a shower just from reading the sordid details, is nothing new.

Simply put, it involved a whole lot of cheating and bribing – all under the guise of money going to charity.

Sounds bad, and it is bad.

But is it any worse than when poor kids went to fight in Vietnam while the rich kids went to college (or their daddies paid to have them diagnosed with mystery ailments like bone spurs)?

Any worse than serving from 1968-74 in the Air Force and somehow never setting foot in Vietnam (i.e. “Dubyah”)?

Any worse than working people paying twice as much than the wealthy in taxes?

Any worse than traitor Paul Manafort, and his so-called “blameless life” of turning American dreams into Russian schemes, getting a lighter prison sentence than a poor person – especially of color — would for a lesser crime?

Yeah, this one had intrigue – with some celebrity names to make it tawdry – but let’s be real.

It is neither new nor news.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on March 17.

 

 

Greatest Stories Ever Sung

Harry Chapin Portrait

By GORDON GLANTZ

Despite our many differences, we all have stories to tell.

And story songs — of all genres — have captured my imagination more than short stories, novellas or even those told around a holiday table.

There is a special skill to reeling in and holding a listener with a literal narrative of a beginning, middle and end within a span of minutes.

On Facebook, I created a page – Greatest Stories Ever Sung (“likes” accepted and appreciated). I have long-range plans for a book of the same title.

Here is a Cliff’s Notes look at the Top 10, which is anything but etched in stone:

10) Love Child – Released in late 1968, when music was at an unmatched zenith, this song is told from the perspective of a young woman explaining to her boyfriend her reservations about having intimate relations because she didn’t want to give birth to a “love child” who will endure the same childhood trauma she did. One of the heavyweight writers contracted by Motown, R. Dean Taylor, later had a 1970 hit with a noteworthy story song (Indiana Wants Me).

9) Same Old Lang Syne – From late singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg, this wistful song is set against the backdrop of running into an old flame on Christmas Eve, making it a seasonal staple almost 40 years after its 1980 release. In this semi-true story (the real former flame came forward to confirm as fact, with some fiction, after Fogelberg’s death), they “laugh until they cry” and catch up on old times. As the narrator walks away, the scenic snow turns into rain, which is a poetic turn on the line earlier in the song about the woman’s husband who keeps her “warm and safe and dry.”

8) A Boy Named Sue – In the music word, the equivalence of being knighted was Johnny Cash covering one of your songs. In 1969, humorist Shel Silvestein was so honored when the man in black took this one to No. 2 on the charts (only to be blocked by “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones). It tells the story of a boy growing up hard and tough because of the ridicule for having a girl’s name given to him by a father he never met – until the final verse, during which he tells his father his plans for naming a son — “I think I’m gonna name him Bill or George! Anything but Sue …”

7) Against The Wind – Bob Seger wrote several story songs, with the theme of comparing and contrasting the past to the present. While “Night Moves” and “Like A Rock” are brilliant turns on the theme, nothing tops the title track from his 1980 album of the same name. The lines “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” may as well translate to “to be or not to be” in Gordonville.

6) Fast Car – I heard this late one night in 1988 and was in the record store the next morning buying what was one of the more seminal debut albums of my time. Here, Chapman paints a brilliant portrait of hope against desperation with a wisdom that exceeded her age at the time (24).

5) Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton does not get enough credit as a songwriter, and has repeatedly said that this song (reaching No. 4 on the country charts in 1971) is her all-time favorite. Telling the story of a coat stitched for her by her mother that was mocked by other kids at school, she reveals the lasting value of the garment that others didn’t understand. The impact of this song? A children’s book, a television movie (and sequel) and recognition from the Library of Congress Recording registry.

4) Highway Patrolman – Bruce Springsteen wrote a batch of story songs in 1981 and recorded them at home as demos for the E Street Band to perform. Instead, he turned this collection into the intimate 1982 Nebraska album. Just about any song from it could make the Top 10 list, but this story of a state trooper torn between loyalty to a brother who “ain’t no good” and his job as a lawman is the best of the batch.

3) In Color – Penned and released by country singer Jamey Johnson in 2008, this one tells the story of a young adult man sitting with his grandfather, looking at black and white pictures from the grandfather’s major events — Great Depression, World War II and wedding day. The grandson is told that the grainy black and white pictures don’t do the memories justice because he “should have seen it in color.”

2) Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – The true story of a ship sinking is not the easiest of topics to turn into a song, let alone a successful one, but Gordon Lightfoot turned an article he read about the ship’s fate in a 1975 storm into a 1976 hit. Using a straightforward approach, Lightfoot sends the listener down with the ship in chilling detail.

1) Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin is sort of the Hans Christian Andersen of this sub-genre, writing many wonderful story songs (Taxi, I Wanna Learn a Love Song, etc.), but this is his ultimate masterpiece. I first heard it on Top 40 radio when it reached No. 1 in December of 1974. As a parent now, I know I have valued every second with Sofia as she has grown into a precocious pre-teen, and I partially credit Chapin and this gem for putting – and keeping — me in that mindset. The time flies, and whatever you put in – as Chapin’s narrator learns in this song – comes back to you.

Honorable Mention: Too many to mention.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on March 10, 2019.

Yeah, I Went There (With a Heavy Heart)

trump-hitler

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — When the “Soup Nazi” episode aired on “Seinfeld” in November of 1995, I was pretty much appalled that the same comedic genius who felt that cursing equated to cheating would go so low as to use a four-letter word – Nazi – so loosely.

A few years back, there were these clips of Adolph Hitler bellowing at people in German, but with English subtitles uttering non-related nonsense, that went viral.

When I expressed my concerns that it should not be a source of casual humor, I was told I should appreciate it because it was making him look foolish – maybe like Col. Klink in “Hogan’s Heroes” – but I wasn’t buying what they were selling.

Klink was fictional – and not overly funny to me, either – and Hitler was quite real.

Nazis, and Hitler, with or without Holocaust references, are just no laughing matter.

As a hard and fast rule, I never went there.

It was as close as I had ever come to a vow of silence.

With this regime in the White House, I have crossed a line I never thought imaginable.

Is it the same?

No, and nothing could possibly be the same.

Is your president (not mine) another Adolph Hitler (or even Benito Mussolini, despite similar pompous gestures during speeches)?

Nope.

But, in the similar but not the same realm, the similarities are too eerie to ignore.

So my vow of silence is broken.

I’m ready to make the comparison.

This is how dire our situation has become.

It was your president (not mine) dusting off the same coded language to tell mostly white Christians from the Heartland that they were the “real Americans” to gain traction in an unlikely rise to power.

You can go to Hitler’s speeches and, verbatim, find similar references to enemies of the state – including the press – and their nefarious attempts to keep Germany from returning to a vague past greatness.

Maybe your president (not mine), with the likes of Steve Bannon whispering in his ear, did it on purpose.

I tend to think he did, and that’s a decision that comes with consequences.

Maybe all his followers didn’t fully grasp the historical significance, let alone equivalence. Surely some didn’t. They just liked what they were hearing.

But some did, and they really didn’t care.

Scary.

And eerily similar to that dark past.

It wasn’t an accident that extremists were empowered enough by the campaign rhetoric to make Charlottesville happen, nor was it an accident he hemmed and hawed in the wake of it.

What your president (not mine) should have said was that his own daughter (Ivanka) converted to Judaism, meaning his grandchildren are Jewish. His other kids, at least at the time, were either married or engaged to Jewish partners.

Those white supremacists carried torches and chanted “Jews will not replace us” when, in his inner circle, they already had.

That thought could not be lost when Michael Cohen testified this week and reminded his inquisitors that he was the descendant of Holocaust survivors.

The coded MAGA language doesn’t directly target Jews anymore, as it did with Hitler, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t being used toward others.

That list would include immigrants (code for Hispanics) and potential terrorists (Muslims) while taking a lot of cheap shots at outgoing president Barack Obama, enough to remind his base they won’t have to deal with a black man in the White House anymore.

It seemed as clear that “Make America Great Again” meant “Make America White Again” as much as the “we want our country back” slogan of the Tea Partiers.

He didn’t have to say it, and didn’t even have to feel it in his heart, to know it was resonating.

Stirring up racists may be worse than actually being one yourself.

With the so-called mainstream media that is allegedly so against him providing an unfair amount of free coverage of campaign rallies, he was into Hitler’s playbook.

And tragedies have happened since, if only as consequences of his rise to power and then doubling down on it to appease his base.

Like it or not, it kept the Hitler parallel – one that I vowed I would never make – in play.

I’m being hyperbolic? Fine.

You go there, and I’ll stay here.

We can let others — Holocaust survivors who have had some strong things to say about your president (not mine) – decide on this.

They have witnessed what they never thought they would again in their lifetimes.

Yoka Verdoner, of California, is mortified by the separating of children from their parents at the border.

She said: “Nazis separated me from my parents as a child. The trauma lasts a lifetime. What’s happening in our backyard today is as evil and criminal as what happened to me and my siblings as children in Nazi Europe.”

The argument is that these children are “illegal.” It should be noted that mere pen strokes make it easy for a powerful government (Nazi Germany or the America that defeated it, ostensibly to keep the world free for democracy) to brand anyone “illegal” and then demonize — and dehumanize — them as a result.

“I have not compared them 100 percent to the Nazis, but we are on the way,” another survivor, Bernard Marks, who recently died at 89, told The Sacramento Bee. “What concerns me is we are breaking up families. We are turning justice upside down.”

Marks penned an Op-Ed for the Bee on the moral – and historical – equivalence.

His words should stand as a stark reminder: “As a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, I take this responsibility seriously. Today, as an America citizen, I feel compelled to raise my voice when I hear echoes of my childhood years in our current political rhetoric. The fear that immigrants (illegal and legal) in the United States must live with under the new administration’s approach is personal and familiar to me.”

And that should be enough for the rest of us without that first-hand experience to understand the similarities.

And break vows of silence.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on March 3.

Meet Me In The Town Square

Ex presidents

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Got something to say?

I’m not a hard guy to find.

I’ll be in the town square.

That’s where people gather, maybe have some coffee (decaf for me, lest a migraine will make my head erupt like Mount St. Helens), and respectively share opinions without fear of being blacklisted (or blocked on Facebook) for eternity.

They – whoever “they” are — say don’t discuss religion or politics. I ask why not?

So when a reader wanted to know why I refer to the current person who calls himself your president (not mine) as “your president (not mine),” I took the opportunity to engage.

I’m sure his question is one many of you are also asking, so I’ll lay it on the line.

Your president (not mine) has, to put it metaphorically, put tears in the eyes of the Statue of Liberty.

You just don’t make that lady cry and get away with it, period.

Obviously, beyond that, we need context.

The reader wanted to know which other presidents in my lifetime I did not consider to be “my president,” and my answer was “until now, none.”

I was born in 1965, so the list isn’t long.

It consists of Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Although he ramped up Vietnam for reasons that still are not clear, LBJ carried the ball across the goal line on vital Civil Rights legislation (even though those goal posts now continue to be moved).

Nixon disgraced the White House, perhaps beyond repair, but I remember my mother crying in front of the television the night he resigned saying he was a good friend to Israel (and, despite being virulently anti-Semitic behind closed doors, it’s true). Nixon also created the same EPA that your president (not mine) is trying to put on life support.

Ford? Eh. Everyone was wise to the game when he pardoned Nixon. He paid for it when he lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Carter? Eh. He was a bit spineless, but he did create a tepid peace between Israel and Egypt and is cool in the role of ex-president.

Reagan? I find the idol worship of his long shadow especially ironic, as he was not as far to the right as conservatives make it seem when genuflecting at his altar. At the end of the day, though, I see him for what he was – a “B” actor playing a part for writers, producers and directors behind the scenes who are more worthy of my wrath.

George H.W. Bush? He was Reagan’s VP, meaning it was four years of the same trickle-down nonsense.

This is when I was becoming politically aware, and legal to vote (thanks to Nixon lowering the voting age), but my votes against Reagan and Bush didn’t mean it even crossed my mind to not consider either my presidents.

They were just presidents I didn’t like, not ones who belittled the FBI or threw hissy fits if made fun of Saturday Night Live.

Clinton, despite his dalliance with an intern (pales in comparison to affair with porn stars), brought enough peace and prosperity that I would rank him first in my lifetime.

For the same reasons I don’t do caffeine, I don’t do alcohol. If I did, George W. Bush might be the ex-president I would tilt a few with until last call. He could tell me about his drawings, and I could tell him about my songs. And I’m sure we could talk a lot of sports.

The reality, though, is that I made my bones as a political columnist being pretty hard on W. The way he squandered a chance to unite the country, instead dividing it with a war of folly in Iraq, is something we are still dealing with today.

With Obama, I saw that the antipathy toward him was skin deep, and that made me a watchdog on instinct.

Obama brought class, grace and eloquence (especially on the topic of gun control) to the White House.

But he was probably too decent of a guy. He made a fatal mistake by trying work across the aisle, when he technically didn’t need to, in his first two years. After the 2010 midterms, when legislative balance of power changed, forget it. He couldn’t get much done with a well-meaning social agenda.

International affairs? Other than supporting the rest of the world on climate change, not high marks.

However, it was he – not your president (not mine) — who turned the economy around (after W. left it in shambles) and also brought about a baby step in the ongoing healthcare mess.

Going from that to waking up to daily Twitter rants (with babyish ALL CAPS and cringe-worthy grammar errors) is a daily pill too bitter to put down.

Bottom line, not only does your president (not mine) fail to represent my core liberal values, but he seeks to stomp all over the whole nation’s core values – calling the press the “enemy of the people,” and wanting to squash other forms of free speech guaranteed to all under the First Amendment.

And, to be technical, it looks increasingly likely your president (not mine) was not legally elected anyway, as there is mounting evidence of outside interference of a hostile foreign government aiding his barely legal election (by way of the arcane electoral college).

Although this reader and I clearly disagree – he dropped the Kenya bomb, which I let slide – I invited him to engage again.

Same goes for the rest of you.

I won’t be hard to find.

I’ll be in the town square.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Feb. 24.

For Those About To Rock

Gun Control

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Welcome all to the return of the infamous “What Is and What Should Never Be” format.

For those who don’t know, or who may have forgotten (shame on you), it is named for the Led Zeppelin song and rolls through several current events and issue (What Is) followed by the opinion (And What Should Never Be).

Ready? Go …

What Is: Rep. Ihan Omar (D-Minn.) shook up the Beltway when she suggested – via Twitter, the way we govern these days — that US support for Israel is the direct result of the lobby group AIPAC.

And What Should Never Be: Random slaps on the wrist without deeper all-around understanding. Omar, one of two nationally elected Muslim women, met with swift rebukes from both sides of the aisle – up to and including the nation’s most powerful person, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.Cal.), and your president (not mine), who said (anti-Semitism) “has no place in the US Congress.”

You know what? Even a broken clock is right twice a day (even though detractors of Barack Obama would never admit that). Your president (not mine) is right. Prejudice, if that’s even what it is, has no place in the U.S. Congress.

Then again, it also had no place in Charlottesville and his non-reaction reaction to that American tragedy still dwarfs any prepared statement now.

Omar is actually not wrong, either. IAPAC – like the NRA, Big Pharma and many others – is a powerful lobby, but the root cause here is that the birth of Israel was the net result of the horrors of the Holocaust. Jews and Gentiles (particularly evangelicals) who support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (there are plenty of Muslim-only and Christian-only states, too) are willing to write checks to help keep it that way.

Omar should not answer calls to resign or step down from any committees, but she needs to follow up with what she said she would do in her apology, which is to live in the real world and rid herself of tunnel vision.

What Is: “Bruce On Broadway” has been available on Netflix since mid-December.

What Should Never Be: Giving up on something too soon.

Despite being a longtime Springsteen fan, I had a hard time getting into its much-anticipated showing for those of us who couldn’t afford the $700-plus ticket price (not to mention the train fare to New York).

His stories behind the songs, at least early on in the show, were either too similar to those I’ve already heard in past concerts (been to 33 of them) or almost verbatim from his recent autobiography.

Even though my better half gave up on it, I plodded on – first at a pace of about 15 minutes at a time, and then straight through. I’m thrilled I made the commitment.

Right on cue, I was reduced to those kind of tears that only Bruce can make stream down my face by the time the credits rolled.

What Is: Former NASA astronaut (and Navy pilot and engineer) Mark Kelly has accepted his next mission, which will be to attempt to become a US Senator in Arizona.

And What Should Never Be: The status quo. This astronaut/politician pedigree is nothing new to politics (i.e. John Glenn), but Kelly – if he wins the Democratic primary (likely against Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Iraq War veteran) – would bring a marquee name from the Democratic ticket, put his state in play as a vital swing state in 2020 and beyond (this is the seat vacated by the death of longtime Republican John McCain and currently held by the vulnerable former Rep. Martha McSally).

The 54-year-old Kelly, if you recall, is the husband of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, the survivor of a high-profile 2011 mass shooting.

Since that time, the couple has become strong advocates for gun control legislation.

What Is: Speaking of the need for gun control legislation, there was a recent double shooting that hit close to home – well, sort of – at my former hangout of the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia.

And What Should Never Be: Shrugging it off because it was my former teen hangout in the 1980s, and not yours.

Twentysomething shots were thrown around the parking lot, with one going through the window of a 60-year-woman in her home a quarter-mile away, and leaving two males in the hospital in critical condition.

These incidents — like the teen-on-teen shooting in Havertown this week and the shots thrown like tennis balls into the Lombard-South subway stop downtown — are all too common and random.

Citizens of Norristown’s meanest streets can testify to this harsh reality.

At the Roosevelt Mall — my Roosevelt Mall of fond memories of buying cassettes tapes and waiting in line for concert tickets and kissing girls from the mysterious other side of Roosevelt Boulevard — two men and a woman were arrested at the scene.

Our national common enemy, an assault rifle, was promptly recovered.

Close your eyes and picture anyplace that you once considered a safe haven, and now picture it being a potential combat zone.

The way people act with guns is at the top of the list of real – not manufactured – national emergencies.

We just passed the one-year anniversary of Parkland (an incident and subsequent protest that Springsteen spoke eloquently about in the aforementioned Broadway show). The hard fact is that 1,200 minors have died as the result of gunshot wounds since then.

Right after the Parkland Shooting, 71 percent of Americans told pollsters from NPR/Marist that stricter gun laws were needed. In just one year, that number has plummeted to 51 percent while just 41 percent said it should be a higher priority for Congress (as compared to 51 percent a year ago). The poll revealed a tragic me-first mentality, as higher numbers were worried about a school shooting in their own community. Overall, at 63 percent, women were more concerned than men about the issue.

Maybe, even with some needing gentle rebukes, we are the right track with more women rocking the boat inside the Beltway.

Welcome all to the return of the infamous “What Is and What Should Never Be” format.

For those who don’t know, or who may have forgotten (shame on you), it is named for the Led Zeppelin song and rolls through several current events and issue (What Is) followed by the opinion (And What Should Never Be).

Ready? Go …

What Is: Rep. Ihan Omar (D-Minn.) shook up the Beltway when she suggested – via Twitter, the way we govern these days — that US support for Israel is the direct result of the lobby group AIPAC.

And What Should Never Be: Random slaps on the wrist without deeper all-around understanding. Omar, one of two nationally elected Muslim women, met with swift rebukes from both sides of the aisle – up to and including the nation’s most powerful person, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.Cal.), and your president (not mine), who said (anti-Semitism) “has no place in the US Congress.”

You know what? Even a broken clock is right twice a day (even though detractors of Barack Obama would never admit that). Your president (not mine) is right. Prejudice, if that’s even what it is, has no place in the U.S. Congress.

Then again, it also had no place in Charlottesville and his non-reaction reaction to that American tragedy still dwarfs any prepared statement now.

Omar is actually not wrong, either. IAPAC – like the NRA, Big Pharma and many others – is a powerful lobby, but the root cause here is that the birth of Israel was the net result of the horrors of the Holocaust. Jews and Gentiles (particularly evangelicals) who support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (there are plenty of Muslim-only and Christian-only states, too) are willing to write checks to help keep it that way.

Omar should not answer calls to resign or step down from any committees, but she needs to follow up with what she said she would do in her apology, which is to live in the real world and rid herself of tunnel vision.

What Is: “Bruce On Broadway” has been available on Netflix since mid-December.

What Should Never Be: Giving up on something too soon.

Despite being a longtime Springsteen fan, I had a hard time getting into its much-anticipated showing for those of us who couldn’t afford the $700-plus ticket price (not to mention the train fare to New York).

His stories behind the songs, at least early on in the show, were either too similar to those I’ve already heard in past concerts (been to 33 of them) or almost verbatim from his recent autobiography.

Even though my better half gave up on it, I plodded on – first at a pace of about 15 minutes at a time, and then straight through. I’m thrilled I made the commitment.

Right on cue, I was reduced to those kind of tears that only Bruce can make stream down my face by the time the credits rolled.

What Is: Former NASA astronaut (and Navy pilot and engineer) Mark Kelly has accepted his next mission, which will be to attempt to become a US Senator in Arizona.

And What Should Never Be: The status quo. This astronaut/politician pedigree is nothing new to politics (i.e. John Glenn), but Kelly – if he wins the Democratic primary (likely against Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Iraq War veteran) – would bring a marquee name from the Democratic ticket, put his state in play as a vital swing state in 2020 and beyond (this is the seat vacated by the death of longtime Republican John McCain and currently held by the vulnerable former Rep. Martha McSally).

The 54-year-old Kelly, if you recall, is the husband of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, the survivor of a high-profile 2011 mass shooting.

Since that time, the couple has become strong advocates for gun control legislation.

What Is: Speaking of the need for gun control legislation, there was a recent double shooting that hit close to home – well, sort of – at my former hangout of the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia.

And What Should Never Be: Shrugging it off because it was my former teen hangout in the 1980s, and not yours.

Twentysomething shots were thrown around the parking lot, with one going through the window of a 60-year-woman in her home a quarter-mile away, and leaving two males in the hospital in critical condition.

These incidents — like the teen-on-teen shooting in Havertown this week and the shots thrown like tennis balls into the Lombard-South subway stop downtown — are all too common and random.

Citizens of Norristown’s meanest streets can testify to this harsh reality.

At the Roosevelt Mall — my Roosevelt Mall of fond memories of buying cassettes tapes and waiting in line for concert tickets and kissing girls from the mysterious other side of Roosevelt Boulevard — two men and a woman were arrested at the scene.

Our national common enemy, an assault rifle, was promptly recovered.

Close your eyes and picture anyplace that you once considered a safe haven, and now picture it being a potential combat zone.

The way people act with guns is at the top of the list of real – not manufactured – national emergencies.

We just passed the one-year anniversary of Parkland (an incident and subsequent protest that Springsteen spoke eloquently about in the aforementioned Broadway show). The hard fact is that 1,200 minors have died as the result of gunshot wounds since then.

Right after the Parkland Shooting, 71 percent of Americans told pollsters from NPR/Marist that stricter gun laws were needed. In just one year, that number has plummeted to 51 percent while just 41 percent said it should be a higher priority for Congress (as compared to 51 percent a year ago). The poll revealed a tragic me-first mentality, as higher numbers were worried about a school shooting in their own community. Overall, at 63 percent, women were more concerned than men about the issue.

Maybe, even with some needing gentle rebukes, we are the right track with more women rocking the boat inside the Beltway.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on Feb. 17.

 

Never Too Late to be Great

MAGAEvil

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It’s a common refrain among supporters of your president (not mine).

Repeating as much as the line in the song “Talk Talk” (by the band Talk Talk), it goes something like this: “He has done so much for this country. I wish people would just give him a chance.”

And then I’m usually issued a personal challenge to do so.

Fine, I’ll take off my alleged blinders and play along.

Let’s go in search of evidence of any presidential achievement that rises above the level of the baseline perfunctory stuff.

What has your president (not mine) achieved with the core policy of simply undoing anything and everything that Barack Obama did?

Does governing by overnight insult via Twitter count as an achievement?

By demonizing the media, whose rights are guaranteed under the First Amendment?

It is clear your president (not mine) has certainly tried, albeit with all the political grace of the proverbial bull in a china shop, to fulfill his clumsy populist campaign visions.

Even though the lives of Wisconsin farmers or Michigan factory workers or West Virginia coal miners have not been altered for the better, and sometimes for the worse, your president (not mine) still makes sure to feed them that steady diet of red meat with a side dish of overcooked venom.

But the cost of not governing the full nation has been so steep that we are in Civil War mode.

Your president (not mine) said he was going to build a wall at the border with Mexico and, get ready for the rim shot, make Mexico pay for it.

Because the big baby didn’t get his bottle, he willingly created chaos — a 35-day government shutdown – and he is still threatening the nuclear option of declaring a national emergency.

Other applause-line promises included repealing Obamacare, defunding sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood, starting to say “Merry Christmas Again” (not sure if and when that ever stopped, but whatever), etc.

His main legislative victory was passing a tax reform bill, one that backfired enough on average Americans – likely the same swing voters that got him into office — that the Republican party was hit hard in the mid-terms of last November.

It would seem that, for every attempted step forward, we have waltzed backward toward an abyss.

The real answer to the accomplishment question may lie in the biggest overarching promise of all, the one to which some clung and his detractors scoffed, which was to “Make America Great Again.”

The feeling here is that we were never great, and I challenge you to show me a time in our blood-stained history when we were. Remember, people, “great” is a perfect 10, not a 9 or a 9.5.

Before you tell me to love it or leave it, I do believe that what makes America great is that our potential for greatness has a high ceiling.

As far as giving him a chance, I’m willing to give anyone a chance.

Sure, I was left pretty much bewildered that the national electorate could be so misinformed, but there was a thought – a Hail Mary pass, really – that this wheeler-dealer could bring both sides to the table and end gridlock.

Instead, it has gotten so bad that Obama-era gridlock would be an improvement.

As far that chance you want me to give him, your president (not mine) pretty much lost me at hello. It was a 1-2 punch. His lack of leadership in the wake of Charlottesville, and then with his aloof pomposity – and pledges of the allegiance to the NRA — after horrific mass shootings were turnoffs beyond repair.

And let us not forget his arrogant ignorance toward Puerto Rico, treating this American territory like a foreign country, after Hurricane Maria.

The arrests of those in his administration, and the whole Stormy Daniels thing, almost seemed like side freak shows outside the big tent (even though they would have brought down other presidents not wearing coats of Teflon armor).

The net results of these missteps show up in the lowest approval ratings in modern history (source: Gallup) and the highest senior staff turnover rate (source: Brookings Institute).

But there is good news.

So good, in fact, that the promise of a modicum of greatness is within reach.

I saw it in the generations of women marching in D.C., not to mention around the nation.

I saw it in the young people, the voters of tomorrow, doing the same after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

I saw it in the results of the 2018 midterms that created the most diverse representation of the changing culture that the backers of your president (not mine) were galvanized to resist via coded language.

And I see it in the resilience of barely five-foot Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who – in the words of the late great Tom Petty – won’t back down to the 6-foot-3 orange giant.

Now, we just need to see it from Robert Mueller.

Oddly, this reachable American greatness is one your president (not mine) may achieve at his own peril.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Sunday, Feb. 10.