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Matthew Smith
America: Through the Eyes of a 23-Year-Old Boy

I.

Land of the free, home of the brave, valley of the oppressed.
We are America.
I am America.

We are shadows on the wall, desert casinos, and fire starters.
We are petroleum guzzlers, media magnets, and beach side carousels.
We are Hollywood phonies, Cape Cod cronies, and Malibu yuppies.
We are Chicago intellectuals, Detroit dope pushers, and cross dressin shims bragging and fagging around North Beach.
We are Wall Street bullies, Haight Street hippies, Seattle punks, and backwoods bible thumpers.
We are miles of mid-western wheat fields, with nothing but the creak of a lonely windmill.
We are north pacific showers that drowned out the sound of day.
We are fatherless children in Hell’s Kitchen, sitting in the corner of our section eight world.
We are the country music singer, the Fifth Amendment pleader, and the small town drunk.
We live to rape the earth.
We are America.
I am America.

II.

We are social leftists, greedy pretenders, and free market pricks.
We are Massachusetts liberals, Texas conservatives, and Louisiana greens.
We are concrete columns, picket fences, and country churches.
We are wealthy investors, middle class nobodies, and street bums, forced to roll the dice.
We are helpless single mothers, bipolar romantics, and space cadets that fill their veins with junk.
We are military personal that would spill their blood for freedom.
We are gothic yups that would drink the blood for pleasure.
We are the victors of two World Wars.
We have left many towns and souls in ruin.
We smile at this.
We are General Motors, General Electric, and General of the world’s army.
We are John D. Rockefeller, Ray Kroc, and Henry Ford.
We are America.
I am America.

III.

We are the Upper Class, Corporate Class, Middle, Working and Lower Class.
We are the living, breathing, searching, dying melting pot of the world…
We are rebels, Yankees, and west coast pioneers searching for gold.
We are small business owners, disabled veterans, and laid off factory workers.
We breathe life into the world’s economy and let it walk a tight rope our savings are gambled.
We choose freely our moral standards and then pay taxes and go to sleep.
We are both Jekyll and Hyde.
We unite and we divide.
We are endless books, endless homicides, and an endless contributor to the weight of this planet.
We are the six o’clock news, damp southern humidity, and the poor painter’s wet dream.
We are Playboy, The Grapes of Wrath, and The New York Times.
We are America.
I am America.
IV.

We are Christians… Fundamentalists, literalists, visionaries, and hypocrites.
Catholicism, Calvinism, non-denominational sects, and old fashioned Martin Luther Protestants.
We are Zen lunatics, Jewish jackrabbits, and Muslims named Ali, Rahim, or Rahuf.
We are new age, scientology, and eastern world wannabees.
We raise our hands in church, use aroma therapy, and feed our hungry superstitions.
We worship in 21st century temples, on top of Mt. Shasta, and in double-wide trailers.
We are stone cold atheists, scared shitless agnostics, and philosophica gurus of another time and place.
We are simple minded children and troubled thinkers.
We are the wise and the foolish.
We are corporate bigots, county politicians, and intuitive surrealists that can connect both time and space.
We are death row inmates, guilt-stricken sexual deviants, and a stack of paperwork on the sheriff’s desk.
We are living, breathing representations of the static human state.
We are America.
I am America.

V.

We are hungry consumers, television zombies, and pop culture puppets.
We are manipulated by the mainstream and controlled by the almighty dollar.
We fall in line as the god-forsaken gatekeepers tell us what is newsworthy.
We borrow great sums of money and carry the debt on our broken backs.
We are a product of prosperity, a tombstone with no name, and a symbol on a hill.
We are Rocky Mountain wind, warm Kentucky bourbon, and a pharmaceutical machine.
We are the skeletons that cancer leaves behind and the obesity that Jenny Craig pushes forward.
We are motivated by what we fear and those in whom we elect are aware of this.
We sit in the dark watching reruns, eating chocolate, and praying for a soul mate.
We are the Saviors of the Middle East, carrying the torch of democracy.
By 2020 we will have forced freedom on you.
We are America.
I am America.

VI.

We are the George Washingtons, Abraham Lincolns, and Franklin Delano Roosevelts.
We are the John Wilkes Booths, Charles Guiteaus, and Lee Harvey Oswalds.
We are the Battle at Bunker Hill, the Boston Tea Party, and John Brown’s Raid.
We are the peace and hope of Martin Luther King, and we are the bitter sick mind of Ted Bundy.
We are the humiliation at the Bay of Pigs, and we are the starving children of the 1930s.
We are the charisma of Elvis Presley and we are the improvisation of Miles Davis.
We are the Jim Crow laws and we are 1964.
We are the uprooted Jack Kerouacs and we are the homebody Emily Dickinsons.
We are the bread and the butter.
We are the cornfields of Iowa.
We are the Mississippi River.
We are the foothills of the Appalachians.
We are America.
I am America.

VII.

As I reflect on what I’ve been given and what I’ve lost, I hold a weightless body close to me at night.
She, too, is America.
A body I could not forsake, serving a God I cannot deny.
People describe America as a new nation, but this is inaccurate.
America is ancient.
America rested in the palm of the earth before the Pacific Ocean and before the dawning of man.
As I lay sleeping I dream of nights in Brooklyn allies, and in San Francisco cafés.
I can still hear the ruckus and smell the beer in North Carolina barrooms.
This is my country.
I am this country.
As my mind changes, my skin changes, and my body changes.
America changes as well, but she still sleeps in 1776.
That is where I find her every morning.
Beside me.
Looking into my eyes, breathing on my face, and telling me
to wake up and be somebody on this outstretched plank of life I call home.

Matthew Smith received his B.S. and M.A. from East Tennessee State University. He teaches Sociology and serves as Coordinator of the Honors Program at BSCTC.

 

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