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Posted by on Nov 16, 2011 in At TMV, Media, Politics, Religion, Society, War | 25 comments

When They Say “Take Our Country Back,” What Do They Mean?

When the Tea Party was at its heyday during the 2010 elections, when the Palins and the Bachmanns ruled the day, we were treated to some soaring oratory by real, “take-our-country-back” Americans: You know, those real Americans, real patriots, real believers who belong to the party of core values, of family values — the good party, the party of God.

Feeling quite dejected, feeling like a fake American, I rambled about it then and I rambled again when the GOP presidential carnival started in earnest, goaded from the sidelines by the likes of Sarah Palin and hustled from within by newcomers to the spectacle: Trump, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Santorum et al, and by the everlasting energizer bunny, Michele Bachmann.

Like the gaudily decorated wooden horses in a carousel, these new arrivals have bobbed up-and-down; some have entirely fallen off the carousel; some have never managed to “bob-up,” but all have continued to throw out the red meat to “real Americans,” and promised that, in 2012, “We’re going to take our country back.

Such “take our country back” harangue and such “real Americans” diatribe strike a very sensitive chord in me.

Is America — a land to where I immigrated almost 55 years ago, a country I love — not really my country, just because I am a Democrat?

After having faithfully and meritoriously served in the armed forces of these United States for 20 years, suddenly I am not a real American, just because I am not a Republican — or a member of the Tea Party?

Although I am plenty outraged at such screed, and have written plenty about it, my words can’t hold a candle to the powerful lyrics of a song I just read and listened to.

The song with the “intriguing” title “When They Say ‘We Want Our America Back’, What The F#@k Do They Mean?” is written and sung by none other than Jill Sobule.

According to the Huffington Post, Jill wrote the song at the Netroots shindig for The Freedom From Fear Awards — “a new national award that honors 15 ordinary people who have committed extraordinary acts of courage on behalf of immigrants and refugees — individuals who have taken a risk, set an example, and inspired others to awareness or action. The award honors unsung heroes who are not professional advocates.”

Jill says: “In deciding what to write, I thought I would include an anti-immigrant history with the still befuddling question I have for the Tea Party folk.”

The song starts like this:

When they say, “we want our America back”,
Our America back, our America back.”
When they say, ” we want our America back”
Well, what the… f%#k do they mean?

Remember the garden of Eden?
Before eve hung out with that snake?
You could walk down the streets not worry bout thieves
All the kids could go trick or treating.
Then those foreigners started coming in
Like the Germans in 1790
Then the Irish arrived, the potato blight
The neighborhood started changing
Life was better, we lived right,
Life had a paler shade of white, when they sing
“We want our America Back”

And ends like this:

When they say, “we want our America back”,
Our America back, our America back.”
When they say, ” we want our America back”
Well, what the…f%#k do they mean?
Before the gays had their agenda, before the slaves were free
Before that man from Kenya took the presidency

Please read the complete lyrics and listen to the song here.

Thank you, Jill Sobule


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Copyright 2011 The Moderate Voice
  • JSpencer

    Thanks Dorian for this post and for including the song (with lyrics). The phrase, “take our country back”, is really a phrase the 99% should be using, afterall, it is the people who kow tow to the 1% (and the associated mindset) who have helped run this country into the ground, and they are the ones who seek to overturn well over 200 years of work by their betters. Their mindset, while not a new one to crop up, is one whose institutionalizion (by the likes of Grover Norquist, et al) is a fairly new and tremendously damaging phenomenon.

    It has been noted before here at TMV how the great republican hero, Ronald Reagan, would be cast out of his own party today, and this is no idle (nor partisan) observation. For a little history on just why this is, the following interview explains:

    As much as a fair and balanced reading of history isn’t a favored practice by today’s Grover Norquist republicans, they would perhaps benefit from a more clear-eyed view of just what brought us to this juncture, and thus gain a better grasp of just who they are seeking to “take our country” back from.

  • rudi

    This code should embedded the song here. If not, the HP link has a Flash player…

    Note: The above is not song, just trying to get around TMV SpamBlocker.

  • JeffP

    Dorian, I’m glad you clarified the question too, because I didn’t hear the phrase so much until it was associated in context of the Glenn Beck popularization. I guess the best response I always heard was “you didn’t lose your country, you lost the election.”

    But I did hear a really funny song performed right here in Austin, by the artist Linda Chorney (around that same time), regarding the other tea party darling, which can be seen on YouTube:

  • rudi

    Try again.

  • Dr. J

    The song with the “intriguing” title “When They Say ‘We Want Our America Back’, What The F#@k Do They Mean?” is written and sung by none other than Jill Sobulez.

    It’s a great question, Dorian. One I wish more people would ask of all sorts of political slogans and euphemisms. We would all be better off if people gave phrases like “corporations are people” and “family values” and “racist” and “pro-labor” some serious scrutiny.

  • Dr. J

    For a little history on just why this is, the following interview explains…

    JSpencer, if you’re reading carefully, that “how tax policies increased income inequality” article didn’t show how tax policies increased economic inequality at all. It talked about tax rates, but all the income inequality statistics I’ve ever seen compare pretax income. You can raise the rich’s taxes all you want without budging our gini coefficient.

  • SteveK

    Well Dorian, don’t you know… Some Humans Ain’t Human < - a YouTube link


    Some humans ain’t human
    Though they walk like we do
    They live and they breathe
    Just to turn the old screw
    They screw you when you’re sleeping
    They try to screw you blind
    Some humans ain’t human
    Some people ain’t kind

    Jealousy and stupidity
    Don’t equal harmony
    Jealousy and stupidity
    Don’t equal harmony

    Mmmm Mmmm
    Mmmm Mmmm
    Mmmm Mmmm
    Mmmm Mmmm

    Have you ever noticed
    When you’re feeling really good
    There’s always a pigeon
    That’ll come $#!& on your hood

    Or you’re feeling your freedom
    And the world’s off your back
    Some cowboy from Texas
    Starts his own war in Iraq

    Some humans ain’t human
    Some people ain’t kind
    They lie through their teeth
    With their head up their behind
    You open up their hearts
    And here’s what you’ll find
    Some humans ain’t human
    Some people ain’t kind

    Mmmm Mmmm
    Mmmm Mmmm
    Mmmm Mmmm
    Mmmm Mmmm
    Mmmm Mmmm
    Mmmm Mmmm

    Hope this song is not too far off topic but John Prine’s playing the Fox Theater in Tucson this Friday and I’ve got tickets.

    Imagine, me going to an event at a venue with “Fox” in it’s name! 🙂

  • rudi

    This should work – enjoy.

  • Dorian,

    I really [really] liked this post. Thank you.

    And thanks to JeffP for reminding us that nobody lost their country…they just lost an election.

    Best to you and those you love,


  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    I have been gone for a while and finally have the chance to acknowledge and thank you for all your great comments. And, Rudi, thanks so much for embedding the song.

  • Allen

    There has always been resistance to change within every culture. At least these people are not coming at you with machetes like in other places on earth. They are working within political venue, not fire bombing your house at three in the morning. Those days are hopefully over. That difference has got to mean something of value to you. Our excellent black president should give you great hope. Surely you see progress here, more than anywhere else on earth. If they do not consider you American, what’s it to you? Because you are. They do the same to me because of my beliefs and my family can be traced back to the 1700’s. I don’t care what they think and I don’t have too. That’s freedom.

    Besides, they always, and, without fail, come around to the liberal point of view. Just takes them a lot longer.

  • slamfu

    I’ve always took it to mean they were talking about white conservative christian America. Usually the people that say that seem pretty ignorant about the inclusive side to the idea of America.

  • PJBFan

    Dorian, I have to say, I do agree with much of what the Tea Party wants, including taking America back, in most respects, gay rights being one of the few areas where I support going forward. To me, that means undoing the damage done by FDR, and the Presidents ever since. Getting rid of the Progressive Income tax is one thing it means to me. That also means undoing the New Deal, the Great Society, and so on. It means going back to a time when the slaughter of innocent children was illegal

    What it does not mean, at least to me, is that you are not an American, and that your values have no worth. We just disagree on what’s best.

  • ShannonLeee

    What is nice about the phrase, “Take our country back”, is that there is no defined enemy. This allows every person chanting the little slogan to create their own enemy. So you have 10000 people in a rally, chanting the same thing, but unknowingly about different people.

  • Rcoutme

    “Take our country back” is the problem.

    It automatically assumes an ‘us vs. them’, where ‘them’ is anyone who disagrees with ‘us’. The US became strong and remained strong because is is WE THE PEOPLE, not us vs. them the people.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    JeffP and SteveK,

    I finally had the chance to go to your links and listen to the songs.

    Lots to ponder in “them there songs.” Thanks

    PS Glad that even some Republicans “said NO to Sarah.” 🙂

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist


    Thanks for your comments.

    Although I disagree with most of what the Tea Party “wants,” I respect your identifying with “much of what the Tea Party wants,” but, instead of saying “take our country back from those non-real Americans,” perhaps they could say, “We are all Americans, let’s work together to make our country even better.”

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist


    A couple of things:

    Where I emigrated from (The Netherlands), they were not coming at me “with machetes.”

    Sometimes, extreme ideology –when implemented — can be as bad, or worse than “fire bombing your house at three in the morning.”

    Finally, “If they do not consider you American, what’s it to you?” An awful lot …

  • CStanley


    Seems to me it would make more sense to ask the people who use the phrase what they mean by it, instead of someone who feels excluded by it coming up with an explanation of the meaning that really explains her own reaction to it. Generally when people outside a group try to ‘explain’ what the group represents or believes, they tend to get it wrong, especially if they already decided that they don’t fit with that group.

  • adelinesdad

    I don’t like that phrase and wouldn’t use it personally. But, it is just one of many hyperbolic phrases common in politics. If someone says I’m “anti-choice”, I could get all offended about their assertion that I’m opposed to freedom, or I could recognize it for what it is (a rather meaningless political phrase) and move on, perhaps also pointing out that their verbiage isn’t helpful to resolving the dispute.

    But, if that argument doesn’t move you, just google “occupy” and “take our country back”. If that doesn’t offend you equally, then the problem is not the phrase but the fact that you disagree with the people saying it.

  • JSpencer

    Dr. J. Did you listen to the interview? I think you missed the point.

  • Allen

    Ok Dorian, I understand, but I think you will find that there are a far more people that unquestionably believe you are an American, than those that might be goofy enough to think otherwise. What can you do about the goofy anyway? The goofy are just goofy.

    As far as machetes and fire bombs, I was referring to places in the world where people have violently attacked foreign immigrants. Germany and Mexico comes to mind.

  • Hemmann

    firebombs in the South and nooses instead of machetes. goofy people are dangerous. the beer hall boys of 1930s were goofy too.

    you can’t ignore them, they must be castigated early and often.

  • ShannonLeee

    Dorian… those that want to take our country back DO accept you as an American….

    ’cause your white.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    ShannonLeee says:

    “Dorian… those that want to take our country back DO accept you as an American….

    ’cause your white.”

    That is quite an unexpected and interesting comment, Shannon Lee, for several reasons.

    Very briefly:

    I am (and look like) a Latino

    Having said that –and fully recognizing that racial or ethnic prejudice still exists in our country — I do not remember having been openly “discriminated” or otherwise held back because of my ethnicity or national origin.

    Thus, while I appreciate your comment that I am accepted as an American ’cause [I am] white,” in my personal case that had not entered my thoughts. But, a BIG BUT, my personal experience in this narrow area does not mean that I do not recognize the “take our country back” movement on the part of many right wing politicians is based on exactly that: race, ethnicity, immigration status,etc., IN ADDITION to prejudices and resentment based on sexual orientation, gender, religion, social status, and — sadly — politics.

    Shannon Lee, while I use myself as an example of one of millions of Americans who feel slighted and offended by the “take our country back” slogan — and movement — and by the “We are the real Americans” insinuations, such offense is not solely based on racial or ethnic prejudice, but is much more broad than that.

    I know I have rambled, but I hope that you understand where I am coming from.

    Thanks for reading and reacting to my original post.

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