Age: 17, Grade: 12
School Name: Berkeley Carroll School, Brooklyn, NY
Educator: Erika Drezner
We are gathered here today to say our goodbyes to patriotism, bid farewell to our Founding Fathers and pull the lever that winds them up and spins them in their graves. Dogs pant in bedazzled pants and get carried on shoulders; I buy a red/white/blue Icee from a man who speaks little English and it drips neon vomit onto my hands.
Sweat drips into my sweatshop T-shirt and a fat man walks onstage to thudding rap. I experience America.
America is smiling girls in tight red tees holding up signs that count to seventy. America is a 50-foot TV with a grinning man in a boater. I experience America: not the America that my grandmother loves, not the one that hid her from men in brown pants, but the America of star-spangled ties and rollercoasters to barf up hundreds of hot dogs; not the America that soldiers die for, but the America that is as easy to swallow as a Nathan’s sausage. The America of buying fireworks for cheaper than your health insurance.
Busty Blonde beams as her counter hits 76. A rogue seagull relieves itself on the jumbotron, and we all take the Subway home.