Thursday, April 5, 2012

Locals Only

What seems like a lifetime ago now, the late, great Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill shared with all would listen his secret of politics. "Think Global. Act Local." Four simple words. One equally simple and direct message: above all else one should take care of those around him. You protect your own first. Once - and only once - they are safe and sound do you worry about protecting everybody else. It makes little sense to trot about the globe putting out fires only to allow one's own home to be reduced to a pile of ash.

The genius of Tip O'Neill's advice is that it is not poltics-specific. The lesson imparted by his words applies with equal force and effect outside of the science of things political. Good advice is good advice, whether one is considering it in connection with the enactment of legislation or whether one is considering it in connection with something far more localized and infinitely more important. Something such as one's family.

Bruce Springsteen has been the musical soundtrack of my life for most of it. Much has been written and said about the political tone and tenor that permeates his latest record. Among the things I have always enjoyed the most about Springsteen's music is the differing levels of meaning a particular song - or even simply a particular lyric - can have. Often it not only means who you think it means, it means a number of other things as well.

The first single released off of this latest record is the anthemic "We Take Care of Our Own", which has been widely interpreted - with good reason - to be a somewhat caustic commentary on the disparity in 21st Century America between perception and reality. It is a song filled with big, vivid imagery including but not limited to New Orleans during and after the horror that was Hurricane Katrina.

But is also a song reflective - to me anyway - of Springsteen's ability to apply the teachings of his fellow Irishman (and mine) Tip O'Neill to something far beyond the limitations of politics. It is a clarion call - a reminder if you will - that the responsibility to take care of our own and to protect those who we love the most and hold the most dear rests with each and every one of us. To paraphrase a Springsteen PSA from The Rising tour, "It ain't a global thing. It ain't a political thing. It's a family thing."

And it is indeed just that. Nothing less and - because there is nothing of greater value - nothing more. Doing right by the world at large is fine. Perhaps it is even noble. But it pales in comparison to tending to the needs of our own family, our own loved ones.

We take care of our own. Because without "acting local", all of the rest of it is just jive. Smoke, mirrors and bullshit. Not a goddamn thing more.


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