"'Tis of Thee" as written by and Ani Difranco....
They caught the last poor man on a poor man's vacation
The cuffed him and they confiscated his stuff
They dragged his black ass down to the station
And said, okay, the streets are safe now

All your pretty white children can come out and see spot run
And they came out of their houses
And they looked around but they didn't see no one

My country 'tis of thee
To take swings at each other on the talk show TV
Why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun

'cause we'll never live long enough
To undo everything they've done to you
Undo everything they've done to you

Above 96th street
They're handin' out smallpox blankets so people don't freeze.
The old dogs have got a new trick
It's called criminalize the symptoms while you spread the disease

And I hold on hard to something
Between my teeth when I'm sleeping
I was up and my jaw aches
And the earth is full of earthquakes

My country 'tis of thee
To take shots at each other on prime time TV
Why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun

'cause we'll never live long enough
To undo everything they've done to you
Undo everything they've done to you

And I'm trying to see through the glare
Yes, I'm struggling just to see what is there

The one person who really knows me best, says I'm like a cat
The kind of cat that you can't pick up and throw into your lap
No, the kind that doesn't mind being held only when it's her idea

Yeah, the kind that feels what she decides to feel
When she's good and ready to feel it

Now I am prowling through the backyard
And I am hiding under the car
I have gotten out of everything, I've gotten into so far

I eat when I am hungry and I travel alone
And just outside the glow of the house
Is where I feel most at home

But in the window you sometimes appear
And your music is faint in my ears



Lyrics submitted by aur0ra

"Tis of Thee" as written by Ani Difranco

Lyrics © A SIDE MUSIC LLC D/B/A MODERN WORKS MUSIC PUBLISHING

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'Tis of Thee song meanings
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  • 0
    General Commentthis is one of my favorite ani difranco songs. i think it's is about how corrupted America is nowadays. Saying that we are trying to make everything perfect, but that we cant (and said "ok the streets are safe now all your pretty white children can come out to see spot run and they came out of their houses and they looked around but they didn't see no one) i might be wrong
    sarah1262on May 07, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI look at it as another one of her fine social, anti-right, songs. Against conservatives who feel the need that anything different then their middle-class, white outlook is unacceptable.
    Hedgeson June 22, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't think it can be broken down to such liberal vs. cconservative lines. This could be at America in general....and the lines:

    "why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun
    'cause we'll never live long enough to
    undo everything they've done to you"

    I think speak the most powerfully. I see that as going out to anybody who has been done wrong by. That if you hold onto that hate, negativaty, and such then you'll never be satisfied. Kind of like, "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" mentality.

    I think this song is quite layered so as to speak to both the one doing wrong and the wronged.
    StrangeOutOfContexton February 06, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree with Strange. I think part of the reason why we are where we are today in this mess of madness is because of cycle of negativity and society's ritual of holding onto hatred and anger seeking revenge rather than peace or a peace of mind.

    America was built upon "those who have been done wrong by" where justice was never served and now we are paying the price. And because the true problems of racism, classism, capitalism and blah blah blah were never addressed way back when old men with thier white curlys on were sitting around the table, it has seeped into the everyday events of the "land of the free and the home of the brave." I think she is definately commenting on the general corruption of America but her main emphasis is on the quality of life for the rich and the poor and the black and the white. She is commenting on the fact that the streets of America are paved for the rich white kids to come out and play while the poor black folks are to be swept away. Hurricane Katrina also did a wonderful job uncovering a major issue our country still must address
    getondownon October 30, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentah there is just too much to say sometimes but ani does a fabulous job of saying what hopefully most of us can see well...
    getondownon October 30, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think it's interesting how she shifts in this song. like:
    "the old dogs they got a new trick
    it's called criminalize the symptoms
    while you spread the disease"
    which clearly speaks about legislation and government. and fear.then she sings about her response to this subliminal injustice:
    "i hold on hard to something
    between my teeth when i'm sleeping
    and i wake up and my jaw aches"
    and then this:
    and the earth is full of earthquakes."what does that mean?she wakes up to destruction?waves of destruction?

    why is the poor man wearing a red cape? like little red ridding hood? i thought that was some reference to woman hood. perhaps innocence? in any case the point of that story is that she looses it. who has lost the innocence? the listener? the poor man? the accuser[s]?
    lalalalala1392on August 09, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBy far one of my fave ani songs. Actually basing my dissertation research on the political/social themes she so deftly deconstructs for us.
    And as for this stanza,

    "why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun
    'cause we'll never live long enough to
    undo everything they've done to you"

    well, that's just brilliant. She obviously is a Judith Butler fan and is referring to the fact that we are inscribed within a violent identity discourse before we are even born, and the extent to which our lives are just reproduction after reproduction of those power formations is completely inescapable.
    sadgreeneyeson April 17, 2009   Link

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