Joe Cocker vs. Bruce Springsteen
I said to my father a lot of people think and understand things in black and white more than they try to think or understand things robstly, taking into account the abundance of facts and perspectives.
It was no surprise when my father replied, “I don’t always think in black and white. Sometimes my ideas diverge from my ideology. I’m not a sheep, like you think I am.”
“Then there’s ideologues and the non-ideologues, like you?” I asked.
“And having a divergent opinion from the ideology makes you one or the other?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Ideologue or non-ideologue. That seems pretty black and white.”
“Yes,” he said.
“But you’re not one of those black and white thinkers?”
“You’re trying to tie me up like you did that time with Bruce Springsteen and Joe Cocker,” my father said.
In 2009, Bruce Springsteen played the Superbowl XLIII halftime show.
We were watching with a group of people.
Springsteen went onstage and began performing. My father got up to leave the room, saying indignantly he hated Bruce Springsteen since he can’t sing worth a shit.
So I reminded my father, in front of everyone, how he had Joe Cocker albums when I was a kid. And I never heard him complain about Joe Cocker’s singing, though Joe Cocker couldn’t sing worth a shit either, probably worse than even Springsteen.
Right there in front of everybody, I asked him why he hated Bruce so much but hadn’t had a problem with Joe Cocker – even liked Joe Cocker.
My father paused. I don’t know if he knew. Or if he just refused to know. So I told him.
“You hate Bruce Springsteen’s politics. You hate that he criticizes the President. That’s the only reason you criticize his voice, but you liked and probably still like Joe Cocker.”
My father left the room, humiliated.
So there we were, over a decade after that Superbowl, talking about black and white thinking when my father brought up Joe Cocker and Bruce Springsteen again. I was pretty surprised, but now I imagine it was sorta like giving up a king in hopes of gaining an ace in return.
So I asked, “It’s been what…..a decade since then?”
“Yes,” my father said. “And I’ll admit, maybe it was hypocritical back then claiming to dislike Bruce Springsteen’s singing while having no problem with Joe Cocker’s.”
I thought maybe that was progress. So I took it a step further.
“In that decade, how much consideration have you given to why you thought that way? And how that why might affect a lot of the other why’s in your life?”
“Not much,” he admitted. “I never thought much about that incident until just now.”
“But you’re a robust thinker? Not a black and white thinker? Not an ideologue?”
“Mostly,” he said. “I don’t much consider myself an ideologue or a sheep.”
“Maybe you’re an ideologue when it comes to understanding yourself, and that’s why you’ve not bothered to think about that Superbowl incident in all the years since it happened.”
I realized the other reason might have been that my father is a narcissist. And that mild humiliation of his hypocrisy exposed before everyone was too much to ever want to relive. I’ve sometimes wondered how much narcissism and black and white thinking might go hand in hand. But one of the two was enough to try tackling in that moment.
“What’s that even mean?” my father asked. “An ideologue when it comes to understanding yourself?”
“Maybe you can think about it,” I said.
“Maybe I will,” he said.
But, just like Bruce Springsteen and Joe Cocker and his relation to them, I knew he never would, even though he was convinced he was a robust thinker. Maybe that’s the reason he wouldn’t, cause he didn’t need to, since he already knew what he was.