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Spoken word by Lauren Harwyn
The Voice of Dissent
Most call me unpatriotic.
My heart groans at the national anthem,
I wince at the mottled print of a uniform,
and balk at the 4th of July.
I am the Voice of Dissent,
a threat to every ‘civilized state’
of mind—the ability to hold conflicting thoughts and sleep
I chew the Narrative like tough meat
and it does not sit well—
you know it. You learned it
in the womb of grade school,
on the back of your grandfather’s porch,
as you stood hand on heart and recited,
promising silence blindly
like you didn’t need the sense of sight
after they took away your tongue;
And right about now, you’re feeling
Because the Voice of Dissent
never settles welcome in the ear.
So let me offer you solace,
though it’s not my usual fare;
I love America
Not what it means or stands for
because words find new homes in the dictionary every day,
what I mean to say is I love you and your family,
the private panic of bills stacked in their crisp, white shrouds,
whispered prayers at night over your son and daughter
fighting God Knows Where because you don’t.
If you knew, you’d be there cheering them on like little league,
scraping mayonnaise onto sandwiches,
squeezing sweet lemonade from bitter peels.
I can say what you’re afraid to utter;
“bring our troops home,”
“not one more.”
I watch incandescent powder light the summer sky and think
Why does ‘support our troops’ mean let them die
as we burst bombs in air over the homes of starving families everywhere?
Why does the red glare of a siren herald
so many black and brown bodies on the still-warm sidewalks?
The land of the free is populated by
homeless vets being swept aside and
trans children shamed at school and
black boys called predators and
black girls not called anything at all
and sick people priced out of their homes
while native people live on land that makes them sick.
When you call this “The Greatest Nation on Earth,”
I have to ask, why not?
Why set our sights on incremental progress
as the conservative party calls for American blood
And the progressive party asks for nothing more than slightly less,
When Democracy means tucking promises into donation envelopes
And nobody has hope that their vote has any power left?
When the first president who wasn’t white is labelled a terrorist
While the administration incites terror every day across this world—
Why do we celebrate an idea when we could be living the reality?
Popping bottles, saluting banners as the atmosphere decays?
I am the patriot in disguise,
unwilling to accept
the death toll,
the tax hikes,
the poisoned water,
The Voice of Dissent doesn’t stand for a song
or go quiet respectfully
but raises injustice above the crowd to wave for all to see.
So long, I have been carried
by the poor, the targeted, the weak.
On this holiday,
as you sneer and fret
at these patriots who sling words of discontent,
redirect your fury.
For it is the immigrant parents toiling under threat of deportation
and the teens who can’t even vote campaigning for socialist values
and the black protestors, holding vigils in hostile streets
and the 1st generation who translates this country for the last
and the native activists who chain themselves to the waterways of this nation
—-it is they who will rewrite America to mean “great” for the first time
and the Voice of Dissent by that dawn’s early light
will be proudly hailed
as we finally see our true Independence
with Liberty and Justice for all
not just the few.