America the Dissonant

Dear America,
I sing you, in my way, I do
My tongue twines around the syllables of red and white, and starry blue
I may not sing the America of the redwood forests or the Gulf Stream waters, but I sure sing the America of the New York Islands
I may not sing the America for spacious skies or for amber waves of grain, but I belt out the America for skies crammed with scrapers, and the yellow waves of taxis stuck in rush-hour traffic

I sing the America where the direction and inflection of teenage voices deliciously changes the meaning of everything we say
I sing America
I sing America
I sing America

I sing you, America, on social networks – I tweet and I trill like a songbird on Twitter
I sing you on the blogosphere when I feel blessed and I make sure to sing you when I feel bitter
A litter of your songs like cigarettes or bad poetry discarded upon the sidewalk of your city streets where high school students gather
Including and excluding, inhaling and exuding what their American parents instilled in them and what they’ll teach their American kids

I sing you when I run, when I drum, when I write and editorialize and say too much and say too little, and sometimes when I say nothing at all
I sing you when I tap and thud, when I succeed and when I struggle, when I thrum and shout and slog through the mud

Because sometimes the crooning turns to crying, and the singing turns to screaming

I call out the America that gives me de facto privileges based on race and on class
The America that glorifies or vilifies based on the width of my thighs or the shape of my ass
And feel free to call me crass for refusing to correlate my bra size with my self-esteem, or virginity with divinity – although I do have quite a different conception of The Teenage Dream
I call out the America where anything a blonde girl does sounds like it ought to have a punch line
And the America that says you’re a geek if you can derive a secant from a cosine
I call out the America where “gay” is used as a synonym for “stupid”
Where f-words and d-words and k-words and c-words create a spiteful stench as foul as a garbage can without a lid

I call out the America where depending on the state, two people who love each other can go from married, to partners, to roommates, to target practice
The America with the immigration policies as sharp and prickly as a cactus

I call out the America whose House of Representatives isn’t really representative of our elastic electorate
The America who has taken its rocket’s red glare and bombs bursting in air to too many war-ravaged regions overseas, whose star-spangled banner does wave in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya yet

I call out the country that mistakes jingoism for patriotism, bigotry for religiosity, and homophobia for family values, like other peoples’ civil rights were theirs for the taking

We have our disagreements, America, but the fundamental fierceness of the First-Amendment freedoms that create them…don’t negate them, but they make them worth the fight

I may sing your purple mountain’s majesty, but I’m not afraid to sing your purple bruises of travesties of justice, when I see them
Here in America we ask and we tell, when first we are silenced we joined hands and we yell, and we make ourselves heard, and even those with the most absurd of claims have the right to speak their minds, and that is America the beautiful, the tuneful that I know and love

We Americans sing together, our mezzos and baritones, our tenors and sopranos
We sing together at the voting booth, at the protests and rallies, and sometimes the chords we make are dissonant and off-key, are minor chords of lilting loss
But our major chords are there, America
And in this country we can blend in with the choir, but we can also have our solos

This is mine, and I sing America

When I sing the Pledge of Allegiance: “One nation, under no-particular-Higher-Power, not entirely indivisible, with liberty and justice, well, for some, but we’re working on it!”

Lily Gellman
Age 17, Grade 12
Writopia Lab
Gold Key

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