American flags fly in Benton Harbor, Mich on June 21, 2016. (Don Campbell/The Herald-Palladium via Associated Press)
Arcadia High School

Poem: ‘Mr. Patriot’ — Reflecting on modern nationalism

“Mr. Patriot” comments on individuals who brand their nationalism as patriotism. We’ve seen a public insurgence of this phenomenon under the current administration.

“Mr. Patriot”

He grew up on red, white and blue
Small town, open space, freedom
No one dreamed about the big city here.
Everyone was happy.
His mom was happy,
His dad was happy,
His sister was happy,
His older brother was happy,
Before he died somewhere in Iraq.
After his brother’s death, he noticed his dad changed up,
Absolutely covering the house in picture frames of Sam,
So it became impossible to forget Sam.
Sam was in every nook and cranny
On every dresser drawer, on the coffee table, the kitchen counter, on his mother’s vanity, beside the bathroom sink, behind the TV set
And something else changed up too
He noticed that Mama didn’t live with Daddy anymore,
In his absence, she smoked on the trailer porch at night, her shoulders shaking gently
And Daddy was meeting with women that looked nothing like Mama
They were young, with kohl-lined eyes, and dressed in all black
And so life started over in a way.
“The President didn’t send Sammy to his death,” his Mama would slur.
“No,” she’d affirm, nodding at the distance like she was reassuring herself.
“Terrorists killed your brother, Thomas. They killed Sam.”
Life had changed so much that Thomas felt the need to be reborn.
So, he became Mr. Patriot,
Protector of His Country.
As a patriot, he channeled his anger.
He touted guns as America’s saving grace, even after cousin Gracie was killed in an elementary school shooting,
He wanted white America, not this “melting pot” business.
He spat in the direction of hijab-clad women,
Steered his future wife and children away from black men casually walking down the same street.
And he didn’t see the problem when his sister complained about the lack of maternity leave at her desk job in their small town,
Because that would be a waste of HIS tax dollars.
He scoffed at the words “gay” and “transgender,” forgetting that LGBQT stands for “human” more than anything else.
Then
Eventually,
He ran for mayor of his small town
And won.
Looking out onto his supporters, he cried “let’s make this town great again!”
And when he spotted the small, African American woman protesting outside of the event,
He encouraged his followers to “beat her up good,”
And they did.
When they were done, a little boy in the crowd nudged at his mother and whispered,
“He’s a real patriot, Mama”