How has Ginsberg's vision of America proven accurate in the poem "America", and how has it not?

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James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Allen Ginsberg's poem "America" is filled with more self-irony than are many of his other poems, including "A Supermarket in California," making this poem a challenge to interpret. When is the speaker in the poem being serious? When not? And how can we know?

Composed in 1956, the poem expresses many of the concerns of the Red Scare. That period has passed, but some of the other concerns in the poem may still be relevant, such as the lines:

Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?

or

America you don're really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.

We are perhaps more celebrity-obsessed than every before, and -- while the "enemy" has changed, from the Russians and Chinese to Mexican drug lords and Muslim extremists -- we still seem to be caught in conflicts with a powerful enemy.

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