Cracks in the Country
By Ilana Drake
Amanda Gorman’s poem at the 2021 Inauguration inspired me to write my own piece about America’s values and ideals.
On July 4th, the America we live in shook beneath our feet. The flags we waved, the fireworks we watched, and the feeling of pure joy we used to know were gone. Because we recognized that not everyone knows “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Our streets that once held children’s laughs Turned to fire and pepper spray As the protests for change evolved And our country divided once more. Our country once opened its borders To people of all origins, nationalities, and races. Yet, we built a wall against Mexico Shielding ourselves from our past values. Our country once had cities that welcomed diversity, Cities that rang with the stories of different cultures And encouraged us to learn from each other. Our country once fought for each person Regardless of gender, religion, or where they came from. The words “equality” and “freedom” used to echo. But now we are at a crossroads because we do not remember who we are. The principles we pride ourselves on sink like the glaciers melting into the ocean. The words we are built on are just words that disappear as they float into the air. The words I have learned since I was thirteen When Donald Trump bragged that he could assault women with impunity Pierce me like icicles on a cold winter day. And the culture of sexual harassment lingers As we see hear the survivors speak and share their testimonies Which we discount Because one allegation can “ruin” a man’s career. How do we speak up without being afraid of retaliation? We can only hope That our hearts will beat together and our voices will move in song, That our people will build bridges from inland to the coast, And that we will learn to embrace the way each person’s heart beats As we search for our common ground in today’s America.
After hearing and reading Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” I thought about the issues that were brought to light over this summer and over the past four years during the Trump administration. I wrote this poem to explore the values that we emphasize in America and the distance between those values and our actions.
Ilana Drake is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University. Her work has been published in Ms. Magazine, PBS NewsHour, and The Tennessean. Additionally, her poems have been seen in magazines such as WriteGirl's Lines & Breaks, CHINCHILLA LIT, and Poetry as Promised Literary Magazine. During high school, Ilana served on the NYC Department of Education Chancellor's Student Advisory Council, and she has advocated for inclusion in schools. When Ilana is not busy engaging in student activism and writing, she can be found enjoying the Nashville weather, hanging out with friends, and swimming. Ilana's work can be found here: https://ilanadrake.wixsite.com/mysite/projects.