Study Guide

America Politics

By Allen Ginsberg

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Go f*** yourself with your atom bomb (5)

Okay! Well, that was… ahem, direct! Clearly, though, the speaker's got some very passionate feelings about America's use of nuclear weapons. It's just one of his many gripes with the country, really. And, with this poem coming less than a decade after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we imagine his political opinions are given energy by his recent memory.

When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites? (11)

If you don't already know, Leon Trotsky was a Russian political theorist and revolutionary, as well as a champion of communism and workers' rights. Here the speaker is planting his flag firmly in the communist camp, telling capitalist America (which was in the middle of the Cold War with the communist Soviet Union) that it's not fit even to house one million of Trotsky's sympathizers.

America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies. (27)

This nickname always makes us giggle. Sure, "member of the Industrial Workers of the World union" doesn't really roll off the tongue, but, come on. Wobblies? Their name is not what matters to the speaker, though. What he misses about them are the politics that the Wobblies were associated with: pro-worker, pro-labor, and pro-union. The speaker is down for their political cause, and he's not wobbling on his position.

America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die (59)

It's helpful for this line if you know that Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were two Italian immigrants who were arrested in 1920 for robbery and murder. Many folks thought that they were only arrested because they were known anarchists and anti-war activists (not to mention foreign-born). Their trial ignited a huge political firestorm about their guilt or innocence, and whether or not their political leanings were really the reason they were being charged. Eventually, the pair was executed in 1927, but here the speaker carries forth their struggle in his poem.

America I am the Scottsboro boys. (60)

The Scottsboro Boys were nine African-American men who were arrested on suspicion of raping two white women on a train, in March 1931. Initially, all but one of them was sentenced to death. The lack of evidence and the racial nature of the case, however, sparked protests worldwide. After many appeals, they were all eventually freed (though the last defendant was not released until 1950). Once again, our speaker takes a political stance in the name of the underprivileged members of society.

America it's them bad Russians. (69)

The broken grammar of this line reflects the speaker's view of those who would blame the country's troubles on the Russians. He mocks the kind of "us-against-them" mindset that is necessary in politics before anything like war (even the Cold War) can be declared or entered in to. It's all just too dumb for words for our speaker, or at least too dumb for correct grammar.

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