180 Days: Day 79–Half Day & Heroics

I was only at school a half day for Friday–as I am spending this weekend working on policy and legislative updates for my state union affiliate. Today (Saturday) I participated in the Women’s March in Downtown Los Angeles (last year, I marched in Las Vegas). I’m really excited to be part of the historic women’s movement/resistance for the second year in a row. But before I headed downtown for some weekend work and heroics, I was lucky enough to spend some quality time with half my classes working on Pride and Prejudice and giving a preview of semester two concepts of rhetoric and analyzing news.

But I did have many students asking me about the Women’s March, so I showed them when, where, and how they could participate as there were a number of local opportunities for them. Redondo Beach hosted a Women’s March for the second year in a row. Some locals built a “Wall Against Misogyny” at Trump National Golf Course. And of course, students could travel the 20 miles to downtown Los Angeles to participate in the march between Pershing Square and Grand Park. Over 600,000 people participated in the Saturday morning march (compared to over 750,000 last year–so momentum has not really tapered as much as some expected). I was thrilled to see so many people joining together–to stand up and be heroic, to stand up and be counted, to stand up against discrimination and predatory practices. And I was thrilled in my half-day Friday that so many students had questions about what they could do and how they too could be counted. My students give me hope for our future.

My photos from the Women’s March while we gathered at Pershing and marched up Hill Street toward Grand Park:

women's march a

women's march b

“Heroes” by David Bowie

 

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180 Days: Day 65–Brutality Showcase Day

*Author’s Note: This evening, on the last day of 2017, I am posting the last 6 school days before winter break. Most of the writing has been previously completed, but the finishing touches (i.e. songs, links, etc.) had to wait until all of the holiday hustle and bustle died down. So without further ado…

Today’s the day that my sophomores read about how a small band of boys devolved into violence and brutality by essentially raping and killing a sow. And my seniors learned that despite all the refinery of civilization, the rich essentially eat the poor through subjugation and irresponsible economic practices. And they all learned just how universal and still relevant the issues that William Golding and Jonathan Swift highlighted in their respective pieces raised really are in today’s world that has seen a rise in mass killings, a reckoning for purveyors of sexual misconduct, and new national tax policies that overwhelming help the haves in our society.

In Golding’s horrifically brutal scene,  Jack’s hunters descend upon a frantic, bleeding, scared sow whose piglets have been injured, killed, or lost in the jungle. Jack jumps atop the sow stabbing downward while Roger thrusts a spear up the pig’s anus and leans with all his might. Golding uses not just brutal imagery but couples the brutality with sexual imagery–implying that the boys were sadistically pleasured by the sows fear, screams, blood, and pain. I read this passage aloud to my students, who were horrified by the sheer savagery of the boys. Then I asked them to reread the passage silently and to turn their “dirty minds” on for the second read through. After the initial giggles about what they were being asked to do, they jumped into the silent reading. The expressions on their faces when it dawned on them just how truly terrifying the scene was–a symbolic act of rape–gave me my cue to open the discussion. We covered a lot of ground in a short time. We discussed what happens to women in war zones as well as how many traditional female roles–like caring for children (think Piggy, and to some degree Simon)–are valued less than traditional male roles–like hunting and building shelters (think Jack and Ralph). Sixteen-year-olds do have opinions about what they see in the world around them, and were surprised that the same issues from over 60 years ago still ring true today.

Eighteen-year-olds also have opinions. And today’s review of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” prompted a boat load of questions about absentee landlords, economic policies that intentionally gut a nation’s economy while still enriching said absentee landlords, shaming and blaming the poor who struggle in said economy, and essentially leaving said poor so desperate that they’d sell their children as food. Once we found answers to our initial questions about Swift’s proposal, it only prompted more questions about what students were seeing in the world around them. Today’s students are much more aware of social justice issues than we give them credit for. In a world of people who are often more in touch with virtual reality than physical reality, the fact that kids are more in tune than what we might think, and are willing to ask questions about what they don’t know, excites me.

Great revelations can come from the direst of situations–even situations that are fictional or from nearly 300 years ago. Great writing about universal struggles–like man’s struggle to be/do good in the face of evil or like man’s struggle between social classes fueled by insatiable greed–makes for a great day of learning on the countdown to winter break.

“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” sung by Peter, Paul & Mary

 

180 Days: Day 24–BLUE THURSDAY on the State Level

Last Thursday, I wrote of how Thursdays evenings after school are typically dedicated to my participation as a local union leader. After I posted last Thursday, a person who had come across my blog attempted to shame me for my union advocacy. This person accused me of hurting children because I am a union leader. This person’s misplaced anger–and many more like her with far deeper pockets– seem to be winning the policy battles in this country though. So I have to wonder, as children are left behind in for-profit charter schemes, why a person would attack me for fighting for equity and access to a quality education for all. I have to wonder how I’m hurting children by fighting to ensure that every child has a qualified teacher in their classroom. I have to wonder how fighting for the majority of funds to go the classroom is harming kids. Of course, I know I’m not harming kids. My students may not always like what we are studying and they may not always agree with me. But they know that I am fair and will give them a safe space to explore and take risks.

Tonight, I spent five hours at a state level union meeting (yes, I arrived home after 9:30 p.m.) where we discussed the Supreme Court’s impending repeal of union rights this session. We also discussed what we see happening in our state, other states, and territories in the aftermath of catastrophic storms, fires, and massacres. We honored our fellow educators who lost their lives, were injured, or are facing post-traumatic stress after the Las Vegas mass shooting. We shared information on how to help them, as well as help our colleagues being affected by fires in both northern and southern California. We reiterated how to help fellow educators and students in hurricane-torn states and territories. And we discussed the legislation and policy issues our State Council will work on next weekend–including looking at statewide-office primary elections.

I am not ashamed to say I work to keep education a field for professionals. Just ask states where the shortages are so bad they are having to hire people without credentials to put in classrooms with our children whether they feel their education and expertise is valued in their communities (I started my teaching career in a deeply red state that has cut education to the bone–but I have family and friends who both teach and have their children in the school system there). K-12 education is a field dominated by women–except in the administrative ranks (nearly 80% are women). So I consider my work a fight for gender and pay equity as well. Fields that require education, expertise, and skills should be paid commensurately. Yet, we continue to be painted as overpaid babysitters by those who have never spent time in the pressure cooker that is the American education system. According to a 2014 report, between 40 and 50% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years. Nearly half a million of our nation’s 3 million teachers move or leave the profession each year.  This is a systemic problem in which I have worked long, hard, and against the odds to help solve. I hold the philosophy that I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I want to work for the change that I seek. I do not want to stand on the sideline and just accept whatever injustice–to just acquiesce. I will work; I will organize; I will fight for my students, for my colleagues, for my profession, for my community, for the future of our country. Access to quality public education for every child is that important to me.

Nevertheless, I do not always agree with my union. But I do value the democratic process followed by my union. And if I feel union leaders are getting out of line, it is my duty to call them out on it. At my union’s state level, we have organized groups within the State Council that launch efforts to remind our elected leaders who they work for–they support opposition candidates and pull items for discussion and placing substitute motions on the floor regularly. They question. They vet. They ensure we do not rubber stamp. This is democracy in action–the kind of action that I also wish to see in my local community, Sacramento, and in Washington, DC.

Next week, I will probably continue to reserve at least part of my Thursday piece for my union work, because I will not shy away from a naysayer or two who would rather hurl “shame” my way rather than engage with me and learn about what I believe and why. I still refuse to believe we are so fractured in this country that we can’t even have a conversation anymore. I see my students wade through conflict and figure out how to resolve issues or seek mediation. They typically cut through all the political BS because they can see the simplicity of the bottom line. My students continue to give me hope. And they are why I continue to fight for a professional, well-paid workforce committed to effectively educating them and helping them develop into the creative thinkers we need in today’s world.

“Solidarity Forever” led by Utah Phillips

 

180 Days: Day 21–BLUE THURSDAYS

I am in my 15th year of union leadership in my current school district. I’ve come full circle in the roles I’ve served in on the board of directors: local rep to state affiliate’s council, local association treasurer, local association president, and now back to local rep to state affiliate and treasurer. I am the bargaining chair and active on our organizing team and political action team as well. My personal philosophy of working to be part of solutions rather than part of the problems has formed the bedrock of my service to my colleagues and my profession.

To honor union history, we focus our union meetings and activities mostly on Thursdays. We wear our union color, blue, to show our solidarity with one another in our message, our goals, our defense of our profession. So today I wore my blue Rosie, the Riveter shirt. And I attended our board of directors meeting after teaching narrative writing and Renaissance poetry all day. Our meeting lasted over two hours, and a small group of us continued to work on board business for an additional two hours. Our bargaining team just reached a tentative contract agreement with our district managers. We knew there wasn’t much to get other than language and small token raise that doesn’t even approach the annual increase in the cost of living, but we got something. Convincing our membership to ratify the agreement in the next task at hand.

With unions under constant attack and scrutiny, my fellow local leaders and I struggle to understand how people would rather complain than act to make their work lives and students’ class lives better. We struggle to understand how they would rather be given a fish rather than taught to fish. We struggle to understand how much discomfort has to be suffered by our peers before they will act in their own better interest. As much as I believe in the Iron Rule of Organizing (do not do for others what they can do for themselves), I acknowledge that we may be at least a generation away from people who are hurting enough to act on it. But that won’t keep me from soldiering on.

“Soldier On” by Oasis from their 2008 album Dig Out Your Soul

 

180 Days: Day 17–Connecting the Past to the Future

I was worse than the kids today. Trying to stay focused on a warm, sunny late September Friday afternoon is hard enough. When it’s my birthday, it’s even more so. I could barely wait to get home and join my friends for happy hour cocktails and grub. But I love my students. I love my job. So I dug deep and sailed through a productive day with them.

Luckily, our subject matter came full circle and I saw light bulbs going off across the classroom all day. Students started connecting the dots from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s three ways to confront oppression to the NFL and Charlottesville–that fighting for social justice is still paramount in our society. For kids who spend more time staring at the 5″ screen of their phone than they do reading any headline news, it’s always nice to see the spark of understanding pop across their faces.

startup-incubator-bright-idea-aha-light-bulb-moment

Ultimately, I don’t care if kids don’t like me because I kept them working right up to the bell on a Friday afternoon because I do care about them learning about their world around them and understanding how our past shapes choices we make for our future. Transferring skill sets and knowledge, using those skills and knowledge critically, is a constant struggle for adults, much less teens. So asking students to do the hard work of thinking late on Friday is always a tall ask. Thankfully, they rose to the occasion. They stayed en pointe till the bitter end, er, bell.

A tall ask sort of like my past struggles to lose these last pounds of weight informed my choices tonight in food and beverage choices even though my birthday is a cheat day. I chose to partake in that flourless chocolate lava cake rather than sip a few extra adult beverages. I chose not to do both. I chose to work off the cake without a hangover and without being dehydrated. We all make choices. Our choices should be guided by our experiences and knowledge. I thirst for knowledge and understanding because of it–who wants to be the putz that makes the exact same egregious mistakes of history over and over again. William Blake wrote in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” So let’s just say, I’m wise enough to know better and decided to let myself eat cake.

wise-leaders-connect-the-future-with-the-past

“Birthday” by the Beatles (Paul McCartney, Live 2008)

 

180 Days: Day 15–Dignity and Back 2 School Night

Today was interminably long. It was a normally scheduled school day, but tonight was Back to School Night–so I’ve been on point for over 12 hours with little downtime. Luckily this day only happens once a year. I try not to let it tire me or beat me down because Back to School Night in concept is a good thing. It’s can be an effective time to make a positive contact with parents–who usually only hear from teachers when things aren’t going so well. I enjoyed myself tonight, as I usually do. Seeing parents who love their kids and just want them to have a good experience in school is encouraging to me. So Back to School Night is probably one of only two times (the other is achievement awards night) that I wear my Sunday’s Best. I wanted to display a sense of dignity in how I look and carry myself.

Dignity was the theme of the day today. My students spent time comparing Tim Tebow’s kneeling in prayer versus Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling in protest–were they acting with dignity? Were they showing dignity toward others? Were they speaking to the dignity or lack thereof in others? I only expected this short writing prompt to be a short into for a passage from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Stride Toward Freedom discussing the three ways to meet oppression before launching into a chapter from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The two pictures of the football players dominated class and we didn’t get to Dr. King or Angelou. But I’m okay with that. I want students to explore their feelings and why they feel the way they feel, so taking a little extra time to do so is fine with me. I did find it interesting that each of my three sophomore classes responded differently. One class didn’t know anything about anything. They didn’t know either of the players or what the controversy was about, but they were curious and asked boatloads of questions. One class was pro-Kaepernick. And the remaining class was anti-Kaepernick. None of them seemed to fully understand the comparison to Tebow. So I promised them I would bring them an article from the Washington Post that I saw last weekend. We’ll see how they respond to the comparison of the two from a professional writer’s perspective.

colin

tebow

At the end of the day, the kids did seem to have a concept of what dignity is, how it’s defined, what it looks like, what happens when you treat someone with a lack of dignity, and what happens when you act with dignity and give it to others. We will see how well they can use this lens of dignity to make meaning of our upcoming narratives.

But overall, I feel it was a good day, even if long.

“Dignity” by Bob Dylan

 

Fat man lookin’ in a blade of steel
Thin man lookin’ at his last meal
Hollow man lookin’ in a cotton field
For dignity
Wise man lookin’ in a blade of grass
Young man lookin’ in the shadows that pass
Poor man lookin’ through painted glass
For dignity
Somebody got murdered on New Year’s Eve
Somebody said dignity was the first to leave
I went into the city, went into the town
Went into the land of the midnight sun
Searchin’ high, searchin’ low
Searchin’ everywhere I know
Askin’ the cops wherever I go
Have you seen dignity
Blind man breakin’ out of a trance
Puts both his hands in the pockets of chance
Hopin’ to find one circumstance
Of dignity
I went to the wedding of Mary-Lou
She said I don’t want nobody see me talkin’ to you
Said she could get killed if she told me what she knew
About dignity
I went down where the vultures feed
I would’ve got deeper, but there wasn’t any need
Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men
Wasn’t any difference to me
Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
House on fire, debts unpaid
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid
Have you seen dignity
Drinkin’ man listens to the voice he hears
In a crowded room full of covered up mirrors
Lookin’ into the lost forgotten years
For dignity
Met Prince Phillip at the home of the blues
Said he’d give me information if his name wasn’t used
He wanted money up front, said he was abused
By dignity
Footprints runnin’ cross the silver sand
Steps goin’ down into tattoo land
I met the sons of darkness and the sons of light
In the border-towns of despair
Got no place to fade, got no coat
I’m on the rollin’ river in a jerkin’ boat
Tryin’ to read a note somebody wrote
About dignity
Sick man lookin’ for the doctor’s cure
Lookin’ at his hands for the lines that were
And into every masterpiece of literature
For dignity
Englishman stranded in the black-heart wind
Combin’ his hair back, his future looks thin
Bites the bullet and he looks within
For dignity
Someone showed me a picture and I just laughed
Dignity never been photographed
I went into the red, went into the black
Into the valley of dry bone dreams
So many roads, so much at stake
Too many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take
To find dignity

Hell in a Handbasket: Charlottesville Proves We Haven’t Learned History’s Lessons

I grew up in a state that many consider part of the Midwest, but most of my neighbors would argue that we are a Southern state. The US Census Bureau agrees only because Oklahoma, the reddest state in the union, is south of Mason-Dixon Line. But Indian Territory, as Oklahoma was known in the 1860s, wasn’t legally open to white settlers until 1889. Oklahoma Territory didn’t become the 46th state until 1907. Nevertheless, many Confederates settled in Oklahoma in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Some of those Confederates were my ancestors–moving from North Carolina through to Arkansas and on to Oklahoma. I’m not proud of this fact, but it is a fact with which I have to live and face. This knowledge is the context of my childhood.

With Confederates on both sides of my family and a paternal grandfather that openly used the “n” word while I was growing up in the Sooner State, I’ve long been amazed that I turned out as I did–a politically active progressive liberal who believes in social justice and fights for equity for minorities, for women, for all. I remember all the racist, sexist, ethnic “truly tasteless jokes” (that were eventually collected into a series of books in 1982) that we all told as grade schoolers as we giggled thinking we were getting one past the grown-ups around us. So much of what I grew up with in the 1970s would not pass in today’s society–rightly so or wrongly so, we have lost our ability as a nation to laugh at the expense of any group, much less ourselves. In many ways, this is indeed progress, but in other ways, we have become a nation at war with itself because we are constantly offended with each other. I have been searching my experiences in my mind trying to trace the path from growing up with tasteless jokes to being trolled by acquaintances and strangers alike in social media for being an intolerant snowflake libtard (among other names).

I considered the humor of Mel Brooks, for example. I can remember laughing at early scenes from Blazing Saddles as a youngster in the back seat of the car at the drive-in theater as my parents tried to enjoy a date night of sorts. My younger brother and I both hee-hawed at the bean farting scene. Then we started arguing over who got the red and blue M&Ms, ate some popcorn, and fell asleep (I was 5 1/2; my brother was 4) before the new sheriff came to town. But as adolescents, we were re-introduced to the entire film. And we both loved the brilliant satire. We still do. I often quote “Mongo only pawn in game of life” when people look to me to solve their problems for them (I’m a firm believer in the Alinsky’s Iron Rule of Organizing–Never do for others what they can do for themselves). Mel Brooks knew that even back in 1974 he was broaching taboo racial, ethnic, and sexist subjects as he parodied Hollywood Westerns, but he did so deftly and with such satiric skill and wit that the classic film still works today.

The closest a film has come to this level of line-crossing satiric genius in the past decade would have to be Ben Stiller’s 2008  Tropic Thunder, which also put Hollywood in the crosshairs while using taboo racist, ethnic, and sexist humor to fantastic effect just like his predecessor Brooks. Tropic Thunder opened the month before my 40th birthday, but I remember thinking as I sat virtually alone at a weekday matinee of the film that it was a brilliant piece of satire that actually pulled off the unthinkable in the post-millennial world–having an Academy Award nominee in blackface for virtually the entire film. I have to wonder if Stiller would have been able to get the green light for the film today, in a post-Trayvon Martin/Michael Brown/Eric Garner/Philando Castile/et al world. Part of me hopes yes, but another part of me hesitates to think so. We are a society that is hurting and not healing. The wounds of our Civil War and its resulting segregation are festering and poisoning the body of our nation. And our national “leaders” do not lead with the courage to do what is right, but instead look for expediency and to curry favor with a chosen few.

 

Today’s horrifying spectacle of the President of the United States openly defending alt-right protestors who were yelling Nazi chants at this last weekend’s “Unite the Right” rally, of him openly defending Confederate General Robert E. Lee by falsely equating him to President George Washington and President Thomas Jefferson (neither of whom betrayed this country to raise arms against it) while denouncing the alt-left as violent offenders was stunning to watch (here’s a guide to the terms). The simmering hatred against America’s first black president, Barack Obama, has in short order boiled over in a very public defiance and a rage egged on by DJT/45 (I still refuse to type his name). The alt-right men and women who descended upon Charlottesville this last weekend were open and proud to wear their White Nationalist symbols. Gone were the KKK face-hiding hoods. The brazen marchers knew the terrifying history behind carrying torches and marching at night–KKK rallies and lynch mobs. They knew that this action steeped in the traditions of the White Supremacists and Segregationists would bring these actions symbolic of the violent old into the now and the future. They also knew that counter protesters would show up–that those in opposition to their extremist views would not stand in fear in the shadows like in days past. America’s wounds are splitting open and bleeding for the world to see.

And all my acquaintances and friends in my birth state of Oklahoma can talk about is how libtards like me are writing a revisionist history erasing their heritage. That is what saddens me the most. How did we arrive at this point in time where extremism is ruling the day and the majority stands by acquiescing? Did we learn nothing from our fathers and grandfathers who fought in WW2? Did we learn nothing from Hitler’s Final Solution and Master Race rhetoric? I can’t help but think of Mark Antony’s stirring the Roman people: “O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,/ And men have lost their reason.”

 

 

Democratic Women to Wear White to 45’s Joint Speech

Democratic women in the House are planning to wear white during President Donald Trump’s first major Congressional address on Tuesday evening. The heads of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, including Chair Lois Frankel, (D-Fla.), penned a letter to members Monday–asking them to where wear white to honor of the suffragette movement. However, their motive goes…

via Why Democratic Women Are Wearing White to Donald Trump’s Congressional Speech Tonight — Fortune

 

When Not to Work Together 

I didn’t write the message, but it expresses my sentiments pretty well:
This is where I stand. I feel that our 45th President, his Cabinet and administration, and the majority of Republicans in Congress are a real and active threat to me, my way of life, and all the people I love. Some people are saying that we should give Trump a chance, that we should “work together” with him because he won the election and he is “everyone’s president.” I am willing to do all of that if/when his policies seem reasonable. However:

•I will not “work together” to privatize Medicare, cut Social Security and Medicaid.

•I will not “work together” to build a wall.

•I will not “work together” to persecute Muslims.

•I will not “work together” to shut out refugees from other countries.

•I will not “work together” to lower taxes on the 1% and increase taxes on the middle class and poor.

•I will not “work together” to help Trump use the Presidency to line his pockets and those of his family and cronies.

•I will not “work together” to weaken and demolish environmental protection.

.I will not deny Climate Change even as a massive iceberg is melting and breaking as scientists around the world monitor its possible effects.

•I will not “work together” to sell American lands, especially National Parks, to companies which then despoil those lands.

•I will not “work together” to enable the killing of whole species of animals just because they are predators, or inconvenient for a few, or because some people want to get their thrills killing them.

•I will not “work together” to remove civil rights from anyone.

•I will not “work together” to alienate countries that have been our allies for as long as I have been alive.

•I will not “work together” to slash funding for education.

•I will not “work together” to reduce civil discourse to 144-character character assassinations.

•I will not “work together” to take basic assistance from people who are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

•I will not “work together” to get rid of common sense regulations on guns.

•I will not “work together” to eliminate the minimum wage.

•I will not “work together” to support so-called “Right To Work” laws, or undermine, weaken or destroy Unions in any way.

•I will not “work together” to suppress scientific research, be it on climate change, fracking, or any other issue where a majority of scientists agree that Trump and his supporters are wrong on the facts.

•I will not “work together” to criminalize abortion or restrict health care for women.

•I will not “work together” to increase the number of nations that have nuclear weapons.

•I will not “work together” to put even more “big money” into politics.

•I will not “work together” to violate the Geneva Convention.

•I will not “work together” to give the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazi Party and white supremacists a seat at the table, or to normalize their hatred.

•I will not “work together” to deny health care to people who need it.

•I will not “work together” to deny medical coverage to people on the basis of a “pre-existing condition.”

•I will not “work together” to increase voter suppression.

•I will not “work together” to normalize tyranny.

I will not “work together” to eliminate or reduce ethical oversight at any level of government.

•I will not “work together” with anyone who is, or admires, tyrants and dictators.

•I will not support anyone that thinks its OK to put a pipeline to transport oil on Sacred Ground for Native Americans. And, it would run under the Missouri River, which provides drinking water for millions of people. An accident waiting to happen.This is my line, and I am drawing it.

•I will stand for honesty, love, respect for all living beings, and for the beating heart that is the center of Life itself.

•I will use my voice and my hands, to reach out to the uninformed, and to anyone who will LISTEN:

That “winning”, “being great again”, “rich” or even “beautiful” is nothing… When others are sacrificed to glorify its existence.

Jules’s Jukebox: Lady Gaga’s Subtle Protest Rocked Super Bowl LI

Tonight’s jukebox is dedicated to Mama Monster!

Lady Gaga took to heart the fact that she was performing for all of America in her halftime show for Super Bowl LI, but her message of support for immigrants and the LGBTQ community still rang loud and clear.

Her opening with “God Bless America” segueing into Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” spoke to all of us in organized labor, but it also spoke volumes to those who have spent the past week resisting the Muslim Ban. Guthrie’s lyrics highlight that our land and freedom to roam it belongs to all of us–even immigrants and those enslaved by poverty and hunger, not just those who are wealthy or have plenty.

“This Land Is Your Land”
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the redwood 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.

Coupling the few lines from Guthrie with her own song, “Born This Way,” added a little gravitas to her set of dance favorites. Singing “Born This Way” in front of VP Mike Pence, a pro-conversion therapy politician, paid direct homage to the LGBTQ community along with the immigrant communities of our nation. (Here’s the official video:)

“Born This Way”
[Intro:]
It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
’cause you were born this way, baby

[Verse:]
My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

“There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are”
She said, “‘Cause he made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”

[Chorus:]
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

[Post-chorus:]
Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag ‒ just be a queen [x3]
Don’t be!

[Verse:]
Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth

A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (Hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah (Love needs faith)

[Repeat chorus + post-chorus]

[Bridge:]
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
’cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to be brave.

[Repeat chorus + post-chorus]

[Outro/refrain:]
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

[Fade away:]
Same DNA, but born this way.
Same DNA, but born this way.

Lady Gaga managed to stage a mainstream, prime-time show for a wide audience while embedding a subtle, but clear message of acceptance in the face politicians who would work to strip rights from Americans. Her entertaining performance will long be remembered for its nonpolitical skin with a political heart.

Here’s her entire Super Bowl LI performance: