Looking at Twitter today, I have noticed some critics have faulted Lady Gaga for not making a statement with her Super Bowl performance, for not coming right out and criticizing Donald Trump and the Republicans who now control our government, for not protesting at all. But they need to go back and re-watch her Super Bowl half-time show because they missed a couple of things.
Did Lady Gaga chant anti-Trump slogans? Nope.
Did she slip into an anti-Trump T-shirt? Nope.
Did she whip out a #NotMyPresident sign? Nope.
She didn’t do anything that we overtly think of as protest.
But she did protest.
She rebelled in a subtle way at the start of her performance, singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” It’s a beautiful folk song, but Guthrie wrote it as a parody of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” (a song Lady Gaga also chose to sing). In Guthrie’s mind, “This Land Is Our Land” represented everyone in the United States, the common people left out of Berlin’s vision of America.
Later in her performance, Lady Gaga took the stage to belt out her LGBT acceptance anthem “Born This Way.” Maybe it was no big deal to some straight people, but to a lesbian like me, to any member of the LGBT community, it was powerful to see her sing this song in front of a massive, worldwide Super Bowl audience at a time when we face a Republican party that is out to take our rights away.
My wife Rosella, who is from Canada, crossed the border as a permanent resident and came to live with me in New York City last February 13 on what was the 14-year anniversary of the day we met.
We would have loved to live together in the United States well before then, but I—as an American-born citizen—didn’t have the right to sponsor my wife to come to the United States until the Supreme Court repealed the Defense of Marriage Act.
We now live in fear of Trump appointing a Supreme Court justice who will happily roll back marriage equality if given the chance.
We are also worried that Trump will sign an executive order that will allow for us to be discriminated against by people citing their religious values.
My wife and I have a lot to lose, so when Lady Gaga sang our praises to the world, sang about acceptance and inclusion, we were moved to tears, and we saw her entire performance as a cleverly-orchestrated protest as did lots of other people.
We didn’t need Lady Gaga to be any more obvious than she was. We didn’t need her to rip up a photo of Trump, or scream profanities, or get angry. Protest comes in many forms, and it doesn’t always have to be angry to be valid and impactful.
Lady Gaga has long used her skills as a performer to campaign for equality in a joyful, creative and peaceful way, and she shouldn’t have been expected to do it any differently on the Super Bowl stage.