PHILADELPHIA — What does it sound like "when rock meets righteousness?" Here, it sounds like an Irishman reciting from the Declaration of Independence. It sounds like a guy ordering a cheesesteak in equally accented English — only this time it's a New York twang, not a brogue. And perhaps most of all, it's some rock star from New Jersey making political onstage at the arena, declaring us "at a crossroads in Amercian history," while the Phillies fight the good fight across the street.
The logic which binds these events together is as twisted as a pretzel — I mean yo, this is Philly — but it's a kind of Six Degrees of Election '08: South Philly Edition. Follow me:
1. Bono, in town to receive the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center, declares himself an American, says "this is my country, too." Uses platform to deliver an elegantly worded tongue-lashing to his adopted country on subjects including: fair trade, our responsibility to the poor, free speech, our responsibility toward Africa's AIDS victims, and torture. That last one was the money quote, with St. Paul Hewson reminding us that "you don't have to become a monster to defeat a monster."
2. Rudy Giuliani, legendary Italo-American, makes a campaign stop at Geno's Steaks, the South Philly sandwich outlet whose owner proudly displays a sign reminding people that "This is America. When ordering, please speak English."
3. Cementing status as hero to a certain kind of blue-collar Philadelphian, Giuliani not only orders his cheesesteak in English — it's the only language he speaks, after all — but avoids the "Kerry mistake" by making an appropriate cheese selection. It apparently does not occur to the candidate, grandson of Italian immigrants who arrived in the U.S. not speaking English, that Nonna Giuliani would have gone hungry at Geno's.
4. The Phillies — some of whose foreign-born players might also be forced to get their post-game grub on across the way at Pat's — make the National League Division Championship Series for the first time since 1993, the same year in which Bruce Springsteen penned the song "Streets of Philadelphia."
5. John F. Street, Philadelphia's mayor, gets what can only be described as a "Kensington Cheer" at both the Liberty Medal ceremony and the Phillies pep rally over which he presides. The reception is startlingly similar to the average New Yorker's reaction to Giuliani up until the very moment the planes hit the World Trade Center.
6. Friday night, Springsteen — perhaps Kerry's highest-profile celeb supporter — plays the first of two dates in South Philly in support of his new record, Magic, which includes the song "Last to Die," a nod to Kerry's Congressional testimony back in the day. The Boss, of course, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 by Bono and returned the favor a few years later, in '05 — thus completing the six degrees of separation, which means everyone has to stand on their heads and drink beer or French kiss the person sitting next to you or something.
When rock meets righteousness, it also sounds like this: During the introduction to the song "Livin' in the Future," Springsteen stood bathed in red, white and blue lights, saying the track wasn't really about the future, but right now:
"We're seeing things happening these last six years that we never thought would happen in America: rendition, illegal wiretapping, no right to habeas corpus, the rolling back of civil liberties."
Amid the cheers that followed came a generous chorus of boos, from the same people who spent the rest of evening chanting "Broooooce!" Yep, even The Boss gets booed. Like I said, this is Philly.