What is the message of Allen Ginsberg's poem "America"? "America I've given you all and now I'm nothing."

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The message of this poem is that the America (referring to the USA) that the speaker finds themselves in is unsatisfactory and rife with hypocrisy. The poem is rich with allusions to contemporary politics which inform and support the poem’s message.

The hypocrisy of America is shown in many different...

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The message of this poem is that the America (referring to the USA) that the speaker finds themselves in is unsatisfactory and rife with hypocrisy. The poem is rich with allusions to contemporary politics which inform and support the poem’s message.

The hypocrisy of America is shown in many different ways. Most stark is the hypocrisy of American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism is the mythology that the USA was created based on values like liberty and egalitarianism, that the USA is superior to other nations because of these proclaimed values, and that the USA has a mission to spread these values throughout the world.

The speaker, in the first line, says that they have “given you all” but now is nothing. They have done the hard work but have not been rewarded, instead languishing with only $2.27. The speaker’s also asks when they will be able to buy what they need “with my good looks.”

Another hypocrisy that the speaker refers to is the idea of American freedom. The speaker refers to Tangiers twice in the poem. In the early 20th century, Tangiers was a demilitarized zone partially administered by the USA among other European countries. It was established in 1924 and was seen as a haven for cultural and religious diversity. At the time the poem was written in 1956, negotiations to restore Moroccan sovereignty to the zone were underway, with full integration happening in October 1956. The sexual, economic, and cultural freedom that the speaker saw in Tangiers, exemplified by the “whorehouses” and William S. Burroughs being there, is contrasted against America whose “emotional life [is] run by Time Magazine . . . telling me about responsibility.”

The speaker also alludes to notable miscarriages of justice in American history: “Tom Mooney,” the “Scottsboro boys,” and “Sacco and Vanzetti”. In bringing these up, the speaker is reminding the reader that American legal system is not always fair and just.

Finally, the speaker refers to the hypocrisy of the Cold War. In the final stanza, the speaker refers to Russia as “her”: “power mad” and wanting to “grab Chicago,” “take our cars from our garages,” “our auto plants in Siberia,” and “make us all work sixteen hours a day”. This is contrasted against America, who is referred to as “he” or “him”, “bureaucracy”, “make Indians learn read”, and allusions to the slave trade using a slur. This is related to Cold War fearmongering that Russia and/or China were going to usurp the USA’s position as a global leader in manufacturing, and destroy the American economy. What Ginsberg is saying here is that America is hypocritical in asserting any moral right over these countries, because its economy is built on colonialism and slavery.

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The poem "America" is told in the first person and depicts its author/narrator Allen Ginsberg in a losing argument with America about how he sees it and with himself as he is shaped by the country where he resides. He dislikes the overwhelming presence of media and of capitalism, but he also sees himself drawn to these things in obsessive ways that he cannot control. He says that he is left with nothing after giving himself to the nation, and so he offers an empty rebellion instead. He also makes many references to the ways that nationalism and, by extension, racism are the excuses for all of the country's problems, and he laments the ways that communists and other leftists have been punished and pushed aside in pursuit of these blind nationalist ambitions.

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The message of the poem "America" by the poet Allen Ginsberg is that America is not listening to and dealing with the plight and concerns of its citizens. The poet conveys his concerns and also his views of what is going on domestically in America, and what is going on as concerns America's foreign policy as well. He talks of America, his country, and when will they "end the human war?"

Ginsberg reveals that he's given what he can to his country and the thanks and rewards he receives amount to him being destitute. He has $2.27 cents at the time of this writing. Ginsberg disagrees with the government's and American society's attack on communists in their midst. Ginsberg also disagrees with America's nuclear armament policies. He wants to know when his country will be "angelic", in other words embracing a holy course of dignity. He desires to know when America will be worthy of all its citizens who have sacrificed for the good of the nation.

America's focus on materialism and the country's technical advances and innovations are too much for Allen Ginsberg. He alludes to the fact that these innovations are soulless and do nothing to transform people into giving, righteous human beings. He also alludes to the fact that the news is full of murder - that America is a depraved and violent society.

He hints that he disavows traditional and maybe all religion:

    I won't say the Lord's Prayer


In essence, he's disavowed the tenets of America, exemplified in the line:

     The American flag is absolutely meaningless to me still just as it was in the thirties.

In addition, Ginsberg highlights that he believes the media runs the emotional life of America and when will the leaders of the country stop this. Ginsberg relates that he, and by extension all of the countries citizens are America. Not the dictates of the leaders of the country. He believes the Communist Cell meeting he attended with his mother as a boy was a fine experience as everyone their was "angelic and sentimental" about America's hard-working working class.

 

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