For You O Democracy

Come, I will make the continent indissoluble, I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon, I will make divine magnetic lands, With the love of comrades, With the life-long love of comrades. I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America, and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies, I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other's necks,

By the love of comrades, By the manly love of comrades.

For you these from me, 0 Democracy, to serve you ma femme! For you, for you I am trilling these songs.

The lines above evoke Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. A century later Americans are still trying to live up to Whitman's dream of "the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon." As the Whitman poem also illustrates, good patriotic poetry often en courages us to foresee a more glorious future rather than the one most of us envision.

The patriot knows that freedom, if taken for granted, often is taken away.

Hilary Tham, a native of Kelang, Malaysia, and author of two collections published in America, embraces that notion. Her patriotic poem below also rises above the norm by (a) creating a fictive persona who has emigrated to America, (b) providing an outsider's view of what we take for granted, and (c) employing a passionate voice to articulate opinions about free expression:

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