Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ginsberg’s “America” today

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“America I’ve given you all and now I am nothing./ America two dollars and twenty seven cents January 17, 1956,” Allen Ginsberg wrote in the first two lines of his poem “America.” In this poem, Ginsberg, an iconic poet of the Beat Generation, expressed his discontent with American politics and values in a rampant, stream of consciousness, style. 58 years later, his lines still apply today.

America seven dollars and twenty-five cents January 19, 2014.

The American dream that each succeeding generation will be better off than the generation before is just that: a dream. The future always used to seem to promise prosperity. But according to the New York Times article, “America’s sinking middle class” by Eduardo Porter, “the net worth of the typical American family in the middle of the income distribution fell to $66,000 in 2010 — 6 percent less than in 1989 after inflation.” As the net worth declines, so does the ability for many Americans to live comfortably.

How can we even begin to fight a war on poverty with a non-livable minimum wage that leaves individuals and families drowning in debt? The seven dollars and twenty-five cents pittance mocks the worth of countless hardworking individuals. When these struggling men and women take to the streets rallying for welfare and demanding higher wages, detached individuals too high up on the income ladder look down and dismiss their hardships as a result of laziness and irresponsibility. They offer two dollars for each limb and about 63 cents for their eyes, but nothing for their minds. These workers are seen as mechanical extensions sustaining the heart of the enterprise; why would their minds matter? Not even a penny for their thoughts.

“America when will you be angelic?”

You speak of freedom yet incarcerate more than any other country. You eulogize democracy yet spy on your citizens and allies. You take pride in equality yet deny millions the right to marry the ones they love. You hail justice but dole it out to those represented most eloquently during their trial of rhetoric. Your actions stray too far from your values for it to be mere hypocrisy. Perhaps they are just downright lies.

“America why are your libraries full of tears?”

You were conceived by noble ideals then born through revolution. But since your genesis, you have overseen the countless bloodshed of innocent lives. From the Appalachians to the Rockies, no rock was left unturned; you called it your destiny: such a beautiful word to describe a hideous reality. North and south, east and west, parallels and divides, buffers and zones, you carved up the world and called it foreign policy. But we are trying to make amends now. Who will you pass on the scalding torch of hegemony to? Who will be foolish enough to take it?

“Your machinery is too much for me.”

I can’t keep up with your technology. Everything is bigger, better, faster, stronger, smarter. I am told each new device is the thing of the future. But I don’t want the future. I want the present. I keep looking for it, but I can’t seem to find it. I seem to always be a day or two ahead. You call this efficiency, productivity. I’m not sure what to call it, Type A perhaps. Your technology is supposed to make us feel safe. At least that’s what the military industrial complex says I should feel, only as long as we have a military. So we pay our taxes to build ever-powerful machines that can destroy our earth several times over, just so that we feel safe.

“It occurs to me that I am America.”

You majored in marketing, rebranded the faith in yourself and called it patriotism. This was the smartest move you have ever made. You were able to bind countless groups of different people together through ideals you ferociously stand for. I believe in freedom, and equality and justice. It occurs to me that I am American. No matter how much scorn I may hold toward your certain policies, or childish inability to cooperate or assertion of dominance in unwelcome places, the minute your flag is raised, I can’t help but feel pride. America, I have fallen into your trap. America, I don’t think I want to get out.

Maral Margossian is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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