What are the insane demands to which Ginsberg is referring to in "America"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The insane demands that America places upon its inhabitants are explored in this poem through a discussion of America's foreign policy and also materialism that is taking over the entire nation. The angry, impassioned speaker of this poem swears at America, telling it to go and "*&%$ yourself with your atom bomb," clearly indicating that for the speaker he is not swallowing the ideological conflict between the USA and the USSR that was so dominant at the time of writing this poem.

At the same time, it is clear that the speaker also feels very angry about the materialism and economic rules of America, which do not suit him. He finds that America is obsessed with a seriousness that is captured in Time magazine, which the speaker finds facing him on every corner:

Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore. I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.

America, its ideology and what it stands for in terms of its work ethic and materialism, is something that the speaker finds incredibly disengaging and makes him feel that he doesn't belong to America because he is no longer able to agree with its values. The "insane demands" of America are thus to ascribe to beliefs that place America in a world of fear and terror where at any moment communist enemies could end the world as it was known in 1950s America.

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