I will admit I was a little surprised by the Jeep commercial with Bruce Springsteen during last night’s Super Bowl. I was surprised in a good way. It is not often a commercial truly moves me and makes me think, but this one did.
The ad is called “The Middle.” It begins with a voice-over from Springsteen talking about a little chapel at the center of the lower 48 in Kansas. He mentions that this chapel is always open and welcomes everyone. I am not sure how everyone would feel about entering this chapel with its overtly Christian symbolism, and I was a little uneasy about the Cross on top of a cut out of the United States in the color of the flag.
Springsteen goes on to talk about our fear and the fact that fear has “never been the best of who we are,” and I would agree fear is not the best of emotions, and many of us have been operating out of fear these last few years. Fear very often divides as one side has to make the other side afraid. Fear becomes the wedge driven between two groups, and it is very often irrational.
“Freedom,” says Springsteen, “belongs to us all, whoever you are, wherever you are from. It’s what connects us, and we need that connection.” Freedom is a tricky thing. Pure freedom is a sacrifice that not many of us are willing to endure. Freedom comes with many different perspectives, and there is no one freedom that is American. But he is correct in saying that “Freedom connects us all” it has too. America is at its best when we can express our freedom as individuals and accept the fact that our freedom comes with limits and with a tremendous amount of responsibility.
As I have written about in the past, I am all for unity. I am all for finding the middle ground. However, there can be no unity without justice and accountability. There can be no unity with white supremacists. There can be no unity with people who fly the Nazi flag. There can be no unity with Anti-Semites. There can be no unity with Christian Nationalists. There can be no unity with people who believe it was Jewish lasers that caused the fires in California. There can be no unity with people willing to take by force what they clearly lost at the ballot box and in numerous courts. There can be no unity with those calling people to violence. There can be no unity without justice and accountability.
Springsteen says we need the middle, we need to find that common ground, and he reminds us that “the very soil we stand on is common ground.” Most of America is in the middle. It is the fringe on both sides that have divided us over the years, and it is up to us in the middle to take it back.
Unity is a nice idea, and I applaud Jeep for using two minutes of Super Bowl airtime to remind us of the idea of unity. Yes, together, we can do more than we can apart, but it has to start by holding people accountable. We cannot turn a blind eye to what has happened.
As a Christian, I am all about the idea of forgiveness, but that forgiveness does not include forgetting, and that forgiveness includes holding those accountable for their actions regardless of who they are or the positions they have.
Yes, we need the middle, and we can get there, but it will take more than a commercial to do it.