This article by Steve Inskeep, Vince Pearson, Barry Gordemer originally appeared in NPR
If you’re listening closely, the lyrics of “Born in the U.S.A.” make its subject pretty clear: The 1984 hit by Bruce Springsteen describes a Vietnam War veteran who returns home to desperate circumstances and few options. Listen only to its surging refrain, though, and you could mistake it for an uncomplicated celebration of patriotism. You wouldn’t be the only one.
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