Allen Ginsberg’s “America” presents a sharp critique of American culture delivered by someone who has almost wholly repudiated its values. The poem’s speaker addresses America directly, as if he were delivering a lecture or a sermon to the nation itself, rather than to its people. The nation’s aggressive anticommunist foreign policy and its culture of materialism and conformity are the primary targets of the speaker’s harsh attack.
The poet emphatically denounces America’s Cold War foreign policy. “America when will we end the human war?” he asks in the poem’s fourth line. He follows that question with “Go [expletive] yourself with your atom bomb.” The communists are not this speaker’s enemies. Ginsberg’s speaker informs America that he used to be a communist as a child and is not sorry for it; his mother took him to Communist cell meetings where “the speeches were free” and “everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers.” Now he brags about reading the works of Karl Marx. Near the end of the poem, the speaker satirizes America’s fear of a takeover by the Soviet Union: “America you don’t really want to go to war./ America it’s them bad Russians./ Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians./ The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages./ Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. Her wants...
(The entire section is 557 words.)