‘FLAGS’: Duane W. H. Arnold
I wrote this song about two years ago. I had hoped that the subject would become so irrelevant that we would never feel compelled to record the song. Tragically, such was not the case. This summer I went into the studio to produce the track. Steven Potaczek (1000 Generations) took care of the vocals and keyboards. Thom Daugherty (The Elms) handled the bass and acoustic guitar, while Chris Thomas (The Elms) handled percussion. In a few days we had it finished.
Last week my good friend Owen Thomas took some time off from being creative director with The Band Perry to put together a lyric video for the song. My original concept was to have the lyrics on one side of the screen with the names and ages of the victims of mass shootings scrolling on the other side of the screen. I quickly found out that it would be impossible. There were too many victims. I then decided simply to list mass shootings in the United States. Again, I could not make it work. There were too many mass shootings. Finally, I decided only to list the mass shootings not related to family disputes (there are numerous examples of these) since Columbine. It took me three days and the list ran to six pages. It took us a few days to put together the video. When we finished it up last Thursday, Owen turned to me and said, “You know, this will go out of date quickly…” Then, on the weekend, came the latest mass shooting in Odessa, Texas.
We can argue about Second Amendment rights. We can argue about the definition of what constitutes an “assault rifle”. We can argue about the original intent of the framers of the Constitution. We can argue about the NRA… and money… and politics. What it is harder to argue about are the victims. They range in age from infants to the elderly. They were elementary school children at Sandy Hook. They were high school students at Parkland. They were college students at Virginia Tech. They were Black, White, Hispanic, Asian and Native American. They were men and women, boys and girls. They were gay, straight and transgender. They were conservative and liberal. They were Christians, Jews and Muslims. They were Sikhs and Buddhists. They were of varied faiths and of no faith at all. Most of all, they were men and women created in the image of God whose lives were cut short owing to this national epidemic of gun violence.
This, of course, is not even to speak of those who have not died, but have sustained terrible and life altering injuries – physical, emotional and psychological. Then there are the families and friends of the victims and, indeed, the shooters, who will carry the loss (and/or guilt) throughout the rest of their lives. Like a stone thrown in a pond, the circle of ripples expand until they touch all of us.
While I could offer thoughts on what might be done, they would be of little real consequence and, most likely, would be quickly dismissed by anyone on the other side of the issue. I do think, however, that there is need for a national conversation not based in politics, but in simple humanity. Maybe part of that conversation begins by us simply asking the question in the song, “Why anyone has to die…”
As a last thought, please feel free to share the video and/or the song on social media if you consider it worthwhile. I think that the more people asking the question, the more likely it is that we might engage in that needed conversation.
Duane W. H. Arnold