Allen one of the fathers of the beat generation.

Allen Ginsberg is a world renowned poet, known as one of the fathers of the beat generation. However, his poem America suggests that he may also be the father of the counterculture movement. Throughout the poem, you will find anti-war sentiments, discontent with the country and how the government operates, and a push for civil rights. These same beliefs and ideals were held by the the counterculture activists throughout the 1960’s. It is evident that Ginsberg’s resentment towards the United States in his poem America were the same thoughts prevalent throughout the 60’s. Allen Ginsberg’s counter-culture esque attitude is revealed in just the first five lines of the poem, where his resentment towards America is spurred by our everlasting involvement in warfare. Ginsberg states, “America when will we end the human war? Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.” The atom bomb is referring to the ones used by the United States on Japan, which put an end to World War Two, but at the cost of many innocent lives. It is estimated that over 262,000 people combined died from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. Ginsberg wrote this poem in the midst of the Cold War, as tensions constantly rose between Russia and the United States. Nuclear threats were being spat out from both sides, and the destruction that was on the horizon could have been devastating, even more so than in Japan. Disregarding the amount of destruction and lives warfare costs, war also comes with a monetary burden. The approximate cost of research and development of the atomic bomb by the United States, called the “Manhattan Project was $2 billion,” according to Michelle Hall of CNN. During the cold war, there was a great deal of time and money dedicated to nuclear testing. This all ties into Ginsberg disdain towards the country, as he is puzzled as to what America has provided for him. Ginsberg begins his poem by stating “America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.” He asks America a series of questions, wondering when this country will be angelic,  and wondering when the U.S. will ship its eggs off to India. By bringing forth these questions, he is depicting an image of the United States as a greed stricken, selfish country. When will America spend money to assist its citizens, instead of using large sums of money towards warfare? When will America help out countries in need? Ginsberg’s  frustration with military might can be found at the end of the poem when he says “It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories.” Towards the end of the poem, Ginsberg warns the United States to not become involved in a war with the Soviet Union or China, as they are two powerful countries who “want to eat us alive.” Outside of this poem, “Ginsberg also came up with the phrase “flower power,” which he used to describe the peace movements that fueled much of the anti-war demonstrations he took part in, including his protests against the Vietnam War,” claim editors. Ginsberg’s anti-war sentiments were found once again by millions of Americans when the United States became involved in warfare against Vietnam, after North Vietnamese torpedos attacked two American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. The U.S. retaliated, and regulatory bomb strikes would soon follow, solidifying that our involvement in Vietnam was nowhere near an end. Many citizens took a moral and economic stance to express their displeasure of the war. Many argued that the Vietnamese were fighting a patriotic war of their own to free themselves of foreign invaders.  Innocent and poor Vietnamese were being killed in the crossfire, and American planes were causing environmental damage by dropping hazardous chemicals to clear jungles and deplete crop growth. The draft and increasing costs only added on to the discontent. These reasons led to anti-war protests throughout the country. “Students occupied buildings across college campuses forcing many schools to cancel classes. Roads were blocked and ROTC buildings were burned. Doves clashed with police and the National Guard in August 1968, when anti war demonstrators flocked to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago to prevent the nomination of a pro-war candidate,” states One of the most prominent anti-war demonstrations took place when some 100,000 protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. Drug use is another aspect of the counterculture era that can be found in Ginsberg’s poem America. Ginsberg, a frequent smoker of marijuana, states in the poem “I smoke marijuana every chance I get.” He also claims his national resources “consist of two marijuana joints.” Marijuana in the 1950’s was not as popular as it was in the 60’s, so it can be quite possible that counterculture activists who agreed with Ginsberg’s displeasure of the United States also took it upon themselves to consume drugs, just like the prominent, anti-American Ginsberg was doing. Drug use was rampant during the 1960’s. The so called “hippie” lifestyle was a way to escape society, and was a repudiation of the establishment. Lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD, was one of the most popular drugs during this era. “During the 1960s, casual LSD users expanded into a subculture that extolled the mystical and religious symbolism often engendered by the drug’s powerful effects, and advocated its use as a method of raising consciousness,” according to Hippies were advocates of peace, love, and togetherness, the same ideals expressed by Ginsberg in this poem. Drug use and the mind-altering lifestyle was fueled by the psychedelic rock music of the 60’s. Music, especially psychedelic rock, played a big role in the increasing drug use of this era. Artists such a Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and Jefferson Airplane provided listeners a unique, distorted style of music for these activists, which in turn popularized LSD use.   The advancement for the Civil Rights of African Americans is another counter-culture ideal hinted at by Ginsberg in America. Towards the end of the poem, Ginsberg states “Him make Indians learn read. Him need big black n-word. Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.” These lines are referring to the United States’ past instances of infringing upon the rights of minorities. These lines describe slavery and the ‘dusk to dawn’ workday slaves had, as well the United States’ effort to assimilate Native Americans by altering their culture to a European American culture. Ginsberg sees these same infringements happening in the 1950’s and tells America that this is a serious problem, and that the mistreatment of and hate towards minorities is the impression he gets from looking in the television set. There is a line that caught my attention that can be viewed as ironic humor. Ginsberg asks America, “When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?” Trotskyites were those who followed the beliefs of Leon Trotsky, a Soviet Unionist who believed that socialism should be established worldwide through the continuance of revolution. These lines are ironic because Ginsberg is saying that America should be thankful for and help the millions of communists living in America, many of whom were considered anti-american and dangerous during the midst of the Cold War. Ginsberg was sarcastic in this statement because he saw that the United States was not even worthy of its millions of minorities (African Americans primarily) who were born citizens, discriminated solely on the fact that their skin was black, and posed no threat to the security and safety of the country. Ginsberg was basically insinuating that the country must do more to aid minorities, instead of constantly worrying if a person was an anti-american communist.  When Ginsberg wrote this poem in 1956, there was still a great amount of racial tension, and very little had been done to improve the status of the African Americans in this country. America was published a little over a month after the Rosa Parks ordeal in Montgomery, Alabama when she had refused to give up her seat in the back to a white man.  “In 1957, Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas asked for volunteers from all-black high schools to attend the formerly segregated school. On September 3, 1957, nine black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, arrived at Central High School to begin classes but were instead met by the Arkansas National Guard (on order of Governor Orval Faubus) and a screaming, threatening mob,” according to Ultimately, President Eisenhower ordered federal troops to escort these kids to and from class. These two instances brought great awareness to the discrimination issue, and helped lead towards big change in the following years.As the 1960’s ensued, protests and sit-ins turned violent, but the needed attention was brought towards civil rights. One of the most prominent events of the civil rights movement was the march on Washington, where more than 200,000 black and white people gathered in D.C. On this same day and location, Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have A Dream” speech, which went on to symbolize freedom and equality throughout the 60’s. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public areas and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 shortly ensued, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. Prominent Civil Rights leaders were assassinated during this era, which led to violent protests on their behalf, and an increase in tension. Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, and Martin Luther King was shot in 1968. King’s slaying led to the final legislation during this era, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which banned housing discrimination based on race, sex, national origin and religion.Ginsberg’s radical approach towards this poem helps paint America as a power stricken, greed hungry nation. Allen Ginsberg displays heavy resentment towards the United States, a resentment so heavy that it appears as if he is siding with the communists and Soviet Union during a time when the Cold War, as well as McCarthyism, was at its peak. This time period can be described as anti-communist, but this did not stop Ginsberg from speaking out of the norm. In the poem, Ginsberg states “America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers it was all so sincere.” Here, Ginsberg paints communists as kind, angelic people, something that would have labeled Ginsberg as insane during that time, especially with McCarthyism hot. Also, Ginsberg unapollegicaly states how he frequently read the communist views of Karl Marx, and how he was a communist during his adolescent years. Ginsberg’s pro-communist views in this poem helps the reader understand how disgusted he is with America. America is a poem that defines the true meaning of free speech. Ginsberg lashes out his frustration towards the United States and how its government operates. Throughout the poem, you will find ideals that were shared by the counterculture activists of the 60’s. Ginsberg’s anti-war sentiments, advocation of drug use, and push for the advancement of civil rights were all beliefs that were prevalent during the 1960’s. With that said, it is evident that Allen Ginsberg was a very influential figure in the counterculture movement, and perhaps may even be the father of it.