No, Mr. Springsteen, We Are Not ‘Embarrassed Americans’

With U.S. troops in danger, rock star's overseas remarks crossed the line.

By Tom Sileo Published on February 9, 2017

“We stand before you embarrassed Americans tonight,” Bruce Springsteen said before kicking off his Feb. 2 concert in Australia.

After a chuckle and a few more choice words, “The Boss” launched into a cover of “Don’t Hang Up,” a 1965 hit by The Orlons. The song choice was an obvious reference to media reports about President Trump hanging up on Australian leader Malcolm Turnbull, which the prime minister later denied.

Hours before Springsteen’s concert in Melbourne, the flag-draped casket of Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, returned to American soil in Dover, Del. The valiant U.S. Navy SEAL made the ultimate sacrifice in Yemen on Jan. 29. In a statement, the fallen hero’s family called their loved one “a devoted father, a true professional and a wonderful husband.”

In the immediate aftermath of such a tragic, non-partisan event, Bruce Springsteen saw fit to call himself and his E Street Band “embarrassed Americans” while being paid to perform in a foreign land. How could a group of such talented musicians, who have electrified millions of fans over the past five decades, be so incredibly tone deaf?

Springsteen is, of course, well within his rights to criticize the new president. What angered me was the singer expressing embarrassment to be an American – on foreign soil – while warriors like Chief Owens are simultaneously fighting and dying overseas. If there is any place for Springsteen’s comments, which I don’t believe exists in wartime, it certainly isn’t in Australia or any country other than our own.

With thousands of courageous troops risking their lives in dangerous places like Afghanistan (where a U.S. service member was wounded on Feb. 9), Iraq, Syria and Yemen, I am enormously proud to be an American. I felt that way when Presidents Obama and Bush were our respective commanders-in-chief, and feel the same way today. Why should one election’s outcome make us any less proud of our freedom and flag, Mr. Springsteen?

This isn’t the first time I’ve been compelled to question remarks made by Springsteen during one of his concerts. During a show I attended during the run-up to the Iraq war, Springsteen urged concertgoers to pray for the safety of Iraqi children, which would have been fine had the singer also asked loyal fans to pray for U.S. troops, who also faced grave danger. He didn’t, which prompted this paying customer to walk out.

While reading about the extraordinary life and legacy of Chief Owens, I realized that the Peoria, Ill., native, enlisted in the Navy in 1998. That means he served our country under four presidents: two Democrats (Clinton, Obama) and two Republicans (Bush 43, Trump).

Bruce Springsteen is seemingly unable to separate the greatness of our country, its ideals and its military from whoever happens to be occupying the Oval Office at a given moment. America is bigger than one president, just as our military is bigger than one commander-in-chief. Good Americans can disagree over politics without running down our country in the process.

Instead of being “embarrassed Americans” when a hard-fought election doesn’t go our way, Mr. Springsteen, how about we follow the selfless example of a fallen Navy SEAL? Regardless of who was in the White House, U.S. Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Ryan Owens — a true American patriot — was willing to die for our freedom.

Hopefully, all of us will grow to love our country as much as the selfless men and women of our nation’s military community. After all, isn’t that what being “Born in the U.S.A.” is really about?


Tom Sileo is co-author of Fire in My Eyes and Brothers Foreverand recipient of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s General O.P. Smith Award for distinguished reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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  • Mike Due

    It’s an old story, really, Like the Dixie Chicks making similar fools of themselves in England while Bush was in office. I just prefer to ignore them, and lament the fact you’ve paid good money for his photo for this article.

    • jim snead

      Hopefully the BOSS goes the same way the Fixie Chicks did!

  • Autrey Windle

    What’s embarrassing is that Bruce is an american.

  • Paul

    Who cares what he thinks?

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    “Baby we were born to run” ….. our mouths off while we run away from everything Trump who is running the country in spite of all the eloquent sentiment that runs like water off a ducks back as we run home to our exclusive enclaves where everything
    runs as it should because “baby we were born to run” …

  • ScrewBot

    As an Australian, I can tell you that there are very few Aussies who have any confidence in our current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. That applies whether you lean Left or are a conservative.

    After prolonged, trivial and yet destabilizing criticism of our previous Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, by the Leftist MSM here, Turnbull staged a internal coup and took over as PM. At the next election the conservatives had lost the huge majority acquired by Tony Abbott in this previous election, and Turnbull formed a government with a slim one-seat majority.

    Trump and indeed all Americans are welcome to mock Turnbull – they would be right to do so, and I can’t imagine any Australians that would be offended.

    Turnbull won’t be PM for much longer, and Springsteen is just an ignorant fool.

  • Jim Walker

    Bruce has always been a tool.

  • Linda

    But it’s something to be proud of when the POTUS says although Vladimir Putin kills his political opponents, Americans are no better….

    • faithntrust

      Rumors about Putin [political murders] vs rumors involving the Clintons. IMHO, USA is in same boat.

  • azsxdcf1

    I am embarrassed that as a fellow New Jersey-born in the USA and real former fan of the “boss,” I have to hear about this disgraceful sentiment. When will entertainers shut their political mouths so we won’t feel obligated to boycott them – in the Name of God and Country?

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