Springsteen Raises the Stakes In His Crusade To Fight North Carolina Bigotry

* The following is an opinion column by R Muse *

Entertainers often get criticized for speaking out in support of, or opposition to, a particular candidate as if there is some kind of law prohibiting them from having a political opinion; a situation that no small number of political opinion writers face every day. The reality is that there are precious few entertainers, particularly in the music industry, that take the time to voice their political preference or support an agenda important to them.

One agenda that does elicit reactions from music industry folks is bigotry of any kind. It is true there are some bigots in the industry, but they likely keep their bigotry under tight wraps because a quick way to incur the wrath, and lose the business, of their peers is being openly bigoted towards any group. As a general rule, and according to this author’s several decade-long involvement in the music industry, there are very few openly bigoted people working to enrich other people’s lives with the “universal language” (music).

Republicans in North Carolina are learning that the entertainment industry has no patience whatsoever for open bigotry after passing a religious law targeting the LGBT community. Several musicians have canceled concerts in the state due to the passage of HB2, and none are bigger than Bruce Springsteen. Now, the rock superstar has partnered with actor and co-founder of CrowdRise, Edward Norton, to support the effort to “repeal North Carolina’s  new anti-LGBT law.”

The effort is a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) “Stand With Bruce” contest offering two lucky Springsteen fans all access passes as “Mr. Norton’s guest to ‘The Boss’s’ concert in New York” on April 25th; the winners will get the opportunity to meet Springsteen and his renowned E Street Band as Norton’s guest. The Human Rights Campaign says the contest offers the chance of a lifetime that includes a trip for two to New York, two nights’ accommodations, VIP passes to a long-ago sold-out show, hanging out backstage with Edward Norton and his entourage, and of course a meeting with “The Boss” and his band.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough for Springsteen to cancel his North Carolina concert to protest the Republicans’ anti-gay law, so he decided to hammer home this point; he, like most musicians and decent human beings,  is vehemently opposed to bigotry in any form. When he announced that he was canceling his North Carolina show nearly two weeks ago, Springsteen said “Some things are more important than a rock show, and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them. This is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters.” Freedom fighters might seem like an odd choice of words, but it is apropos in America where citizens have to fight for freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

In a statement on his website, Springsteen wrote what an increasing number of Americans are learning about a specific, religiously-motivated, group of hateful Americans; they fail to acknowledge that in America every citizen is entitled to their Constitutionally-guaranteed human rights. He wrote,

To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress.” Canceling the show “is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”

Anyone familiar with Springsteen already understands that this anti-bigotry activism is not his first foray into supporting human rights for the LGBT community.  If they are unsure how committed Springsteen is to LGBT rights, a 1996 interview in “The Advocate” will enlighten them as to his staunch support for the LGBT community and specifically the importance of marriage equality; a position that was not popular 20 years ago.

It is telling that North Carolina Republicans just cannot get the message that bigotry is not appealing to a significant number of Americans. One freshman congressman from N.C. attributed Springsteen’s cancelation as an act of a “bully” from the “radical left.” The Republican, Mark Walker, who was not involved in voting for the nasty anti-LGBT state law said “Bruce is known to be on the radical left. I consider this a bully tactic. It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home.” No, ‘Bruce’ said that canceling the show “is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to bigotry and prejudice;” it is not some kind of playground basketball game.

But seriously; a radical left bully tactic? That attitude plainly informs that these religious Republican bigots regard the Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence as “radical left bullies.” After all,  they did agree with the “immortal declaration” that “all men are created equal.” And over the course of the nation’s history all manner of people from both sides of the aisle have worked tirelessly to guarantee that all Americans enjoy basic human rights.

The Human Rights Campaign partnering with Springsteen, Norton and CrowdRise released a statement about its involvement with the Boss. The HRC membership director, Dane Grams, said “This is an opportunity for our supporters to stand with Bruce and his band in the struggle against injustice, and to speak out for equality in North Carolina and beyond. Participating in this fundraiser helps elevate the voices of the thousands of citizens whose rights and fundamental dignity are being trampled by the elected leaders in North Carolina.”

Although similar to legal bigotry proposals in other states, North Carolina’s ‘legalized bigotry” law is the first of its kind in America. Several other Republican bills were rejected including one passed in South Dakota that was summarily vetoed by Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard.

Also this week, in Tennessee the sponsor of a similar bill announced plans to pull the anti-LGBT legislation after an outcry from “tens of thousands of fair-minded Tennesseans; major national child welfare, medical, and education groups; country and rock music stars, and major business leaders.”

Apparently, money plays an important role in combating religious Republican bigotry, but when a high-profile rock superstar and legend speaks and acts, Americans who may not follow state-level politics listen. In this particular case, there is hardly a more high-profile voice than an American icon like Bruce Springsteen and to reach more people as well as support the HRC’s effort to repeal a hateful law, “The Boss” raised the stakes in doing his part to end prejudice and bigotry against the LGBT community; something that should be every American’s goal whether they are a musician or not.