The whole world was waiting with bated breath to see if Stefani Germanotta – better known as Lady Gaga – would get political during her performance at the halftime of Super Bowl LI.
While Lady Gaga gave an exceptional performance, she was careful to not cross any boundaries that might have upset the networks or our perpetually petty President Trump – or so it seemed.
Woven into a technological spectacle featuring hundreds of luminescent drones and astounding stage changes was a very direct political message.
Lady Gaga opened her set with “God Bless America” and then dived right into Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land Is Your Land.” But contrary to how it may appear, that choice of song was more symbolic than it would seem.
That song has become an anthem of sorts for the nascent resistance to Donald Trump and his un-American executive orders. While Lady Gaga only sang the first verse, that particular choice of song struck a heavy chord with those familiar with the full text of the song now that we know Trump is hell-bent on building his promised border wall.
This land is your land
This land is my land From California to the New York island; From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters This land was made for you and Me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway, I saw above me that endless skyway: I saw below me that golden valley: This land was made for you and me.
I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts; And all around me a voice was sounding: This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling, And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling, As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting: This land was made for you and me.
As I went walking I saw a sign there And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.” But on the other side it didn’t say nothing, That side was made for you and me.
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?
Nobody living can ever stop me, As I go walking that freedom highway; Nobody living can ever make me turn back This land was made for you and me.
The symbolism is immediately apparent to all of us as we consider the horrifying prospect of watching our tax dollars being poured into the construction of an ultimately useless and exorbitantly expensive border wall with Mexico.
Guthrie’s words embody the real America – the story of the downtrodden immigrant fleeing war, persecution, or simply famine and drought in their homelands. It invokes the resistance that successive layers of immigrants have faced by those already here and celebrates the overcoming of petty differences that led to this nation winning the Second World War and becoming the superpower that it is today.
Our nation was founded on an unforgivable genocide. But at the same time, from the ashes rose the forging of a new future among the razed remains of Native American settlements. We must carry that weight with us forever – and the only way we can atone for the sins of our great-great grandfathers is to ensure that the United States remains a welcoming nation that embraces its diversity and stops giving credence to the racist, the fool, and the gullible coward.
Donald Trump and his white supremacist taskmaster, Stephen Bannon, would have us close our doors and turn our backs as chaos and the scourge of war envelop the innocents of the world. That is not who we are and not what we stand for. The words ingrained upon the Statue of Liberty must be our rally cry, and the lyrics of Guthrie’s song must fill our hearts.
Watch it here:
h/t to Joanna Robinson @ Vanity Fair
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.