This song is your song, this song is my song…

Woody Guthrie holding his guitar infamously inscribed “This Machine Kills Fascists”. (Creative Commons)

Woody Guthrie holding his guitar infamously inscribed “This Machine Kills Fascists”. (Creative Commons) (click to embiggen)

So apparently some people are angry that Lady Gaga sang the Woody Guthrie song, “This Land Is Your Land” at the Superbowl, though I think they were mostly angry at first about the fact that her medley included her pro-gay rights pop song, “Born This Way.” It was clear from the early headlines about the show being apolitical that no one remembered that Guthrie’s song was actually about the oppression of working people. Which the Washington Post explains really well: If you thought Lady Gaga’s halftime show was apolitical, consider the origin of ‘This Land is Your Land’.

As the article I linked points out, Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in a fit of pique from constantly hearing Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” everywhere along with rhetoric which would sound very familiar to anyone clamoring to make america great again as if the deprivation and suffering and oppression of the working class, particularly during the oppression, had never happened. Guthrie’s original title (and lyric) was “God Blessed America for Me.”

And if you don’t understand that it’s a protest song, you might want to read these original verses that people almost never sing any longer:

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me,
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
That side was made for you and me!

In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

Can you imagine if Lady Gaga had sung the verse about the high wall? Ha!

Guthrie put the slogan on his guitars in many different ways over the years (Photo by Lester Balog)

Guthrie put the slogan on his guitars in many different ways over the years (Photo by Lester Balog)

Guthrie’s song is an especially good choice to subtweet the trumpkins, because back in the day, Guthrie was famous for writing “This Machine Kills Fascists” on his guitar. So it wasn’t just Captain America who was advocating punching Nazis at the time. Guthrie first wrote those words on his guitar after writing the song, “Talking Hitler’s Head Off Blues.” Guthrie argued (I think correctly), that fascism is a form of economic exploitation comparable to slavery, and that fascist leaders are essentially gangsters out to rob the world. He explicitly included within the category of fascist leaders all of the wealthy elite who profited from social, political and economic inequality.

Guthrie also argued that people who protested those inequalities were not thugs or outlaws, but are heroes rising “in times of economic turmoil and social disintegration” to fight “a highly illegitimate criminal endeavor intended to exploit the common people.”

Let’s go be heroes!

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. For more than 20 years I edited and published an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live near Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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