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“This Land:” The pro-Immigrant Radicalism of Lady Gaga and Guthrie at Half-Time


“This Land:” The pro-Immigrant Radicalism of Lady Gaga and Guthrie at Half-Time

Juan Cole

By beginning with Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” and then switching to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is your Land,” Lady Gaga (Stefani Germanotta, 30) engaged in a subtle but very radical critique of the immigration and other policies of Donald J. Trump. Her switch at the end to quoting the pledge of allegiance with the ending phrase “with justice and liberty for all” was a further critique of Trump’s latent white nationalism. For all.


Thanks. i heard a commentator on NPR assert that Gaga had made no political statement, but i heard it with my own ears, and when i heard her sing i commented immediately that her switch from God Bless America to This Land was obviously political.


Engagingly wide ranging - from popular standards to left wing music history, to Western hemisphere climatology to west coast 1930s politics to a modern pop political critique.

But as for Lady Gaga’s critique…reminded of a joke I heard long ago - What do you get when you cross the Godfather with a French Structuralist? Someone who makes you an offer you can’t understand…Surely listeners got something different from the performance than Mr. Cole’s cultured left analysis…


We have a moral duty to open the doors to refugees, but there is one big catch to increasing immigration: Jobs. Very few immigrants have the money, means, and skills to come here and build companies that can hire masses of jobless Americans. Most will need jobs. The last I heard, there are 7 jobs for every 10 jobless Americans who still have the means to pursue one (home address, phone, etc.), and we have no mercy on those who are left out. Either immigrants will go jobless, or they’ll replace American workers, leaving more Americans in deep poverty.


“In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?” ~Woody Guthrie

Of course, we shut down that relief office.


Here’s a little tidbit. During the time of Woody’s residence in NYC, he lived in a housing project in Brooklyn owned by a guy named Fred Trump. They had fights. Woody considered Trump the epitome of the evil slum lord. This is from information gathered by a good friend of Woody’s , a well known musicologist and close friend of his. Woody hated Trump and all that he stood for.


Logical. After all, Thatcher’s government redefined unemployment possibly as many as 30 times in 13 years. It kept unemployment figures down. Who said that Thatcher didn’t have a sense of humour?


Not so. Immigrants are job creators and have been increasing in that role for some time now. Remember, they are the ones who’ve gone through tough times all the way to going through hell and now they are going to hang on. Here is a quote and a link (I only went to one of the many I Googled with the topic, this is from a 2012 study)

“Report: Open For Business: How Immigrants Are Driving Small Business Creation In The United States
Key findings of the report include:
Immigrants started 28% of all new U.S. businesses in 2011, despite accounting for just 12.9% of the U.S. population
Over the last 15 years, immigrants have increased the rate by which they start businesses by more than 50 percent, while the native-born have seen their business generation rate decline by 10 percent
Immigrants are now more than twice as likely to start a business as the native-born
Immigrants start more than 25% of all businesses in seven of the eight sectors of the economy that the U.S. government expects to grow the fastest over the next decade. These include health care and social assistance (28.7%), construction (31.8%), retail trade (29.1%) and leisure and hospitality (23.9%), among others”

Link to Article:

Link to study PDF conclusions


I didn’t watch so I was glad to read about Lady Gaga’s political statement through her musical performance. Reminds me of Sting’s very pertinent selection in the Super Bowl just before Bush’s "Shock and Awe’: “I’m sending an SOS to the World.”

OTOH, what’s with the shocking errors in this article. Here’s two:
“with justice and liberty for all,” isn’t what the pledge of allegience says. It’ says, “liberty and justice for all.” Did LG change the lyrics or did Juan or whoever transcribed it on CD?

Same for “‘Wobblies’ (International Workers of the World),” Which is a ridiculous redundancy. It should be "‘Wobblies’ (Industrial Workers of the World).

In a time of ‘alternative facts,’ we, who oppose, the reality-manipulator in chief, need to do a much better job standing up for reality than was demonstrated in this article.


I beg to differ , I am sure lots of listeners understood exactlly what her performance was saying, her fans are from a broad spectrum and pretty cultured, I doubt trump picked up on it however, it was way above him…


Oklahoma hasn’t changed all that much, in the 1920s the KKK took over the State which had been a stronghold of the Socialist Party. It has been reliably far right in politics ever since and has consistently driven leftists like Woody out of the State.


Apparently so…My preference would still be for criticism that is not simply ‘picked up on’ by progressive insiders, but with a shot at persuading a greater public - such as the Superbowl’s 84 Lumber commercial - edited by the Fox station, but available uncut on the company’s website and Youtube.


I am sure that the ignorant portion of america had no clue. But anyone familiar with Woody’s songs and this land is my land song understands what she was saying. We can’t help the clueless.


The greater public are sheep motivated by fear. Trump’s whole muslim ban is all about fear and the sheeple are buying it. Facts, reason. logic have no effect against a fear campaign. The founders feared someone like trump using fear to win and thought they had made a republic able to stop someone like trump.

Americans have always been fed fear as a way to motivate them to do what is not in their best interest. At least a majority of americans are not buying trump’s garbage. But you will never shake the fanatics.


Lady Gaga, her songs bring the joy in my life, The Cure lyrics & tune are just ridiculous