Impotent Citizens With Fancy Guns

I started writing week 8’s song for #songaweek2018 while standing in front of my son’s middle school as school let out and crowds of vibrant young people walked past me, just days after the latest mass shooting, which once again happened at a school. I thought, “let all these children be healed.”

That line morphed into “let all these children believe . . .” and you can hear the rest of it below.

Often (unless I’m writing a fun/goofy song) I try to spread my words in layers, make things subtle, pack the lines with depth so everything isn’t right there on the surface for an easy takeaway from the first listen. But this time I found myself bucking that habit and writing something more straightforward.

Creating art inspired by or expressing a political or controversial idea is a challenge. I want to make music, not propaganda. I want to appeal to common humanity and shared experience/empathy, not set up false dichotomies or overly sentimentalize. I want to make a case for what I see as important, but not be preachy. All of that was in my mind as I wrote this song.

Ultimately, my hope is that we as a culture will listen to our youth, and that they can be confident that we are listening, that we care, that we aren’t brushing aside their descriptions of their lived experience – and that we are willing to reconsider some things, including gun regulations, in light of what they say to us.

In the days even since I wrote this song, I’ve been encouraged by what I’m seeing and hearing in our country – a rising tide of concern from people of varying political stripes, companies breaking ties with the NRA, politicians’ feet held to the fire – and much of it driven by young people who aren’t even old enough to vote yet. Maybe these children are turning my first lyric idea for this song on its head, and by their activism, helping us all to be healed.

Let all these children believe
that when we lose them we grieve
and that we care more than we’ve been letting on

Let all their sad hearts be cheered
that love is stronger than fear
and no amusement’s too dear to be let go

But we’ll lower the flag have a moment of silence
Discuss mental illness and virtual violence
And when all has been dutifully said and done
We’ll get right back on out there and play with our guns

Let these courageous young minds
teach us to change with the times
and not be willfully blind to what they show

Let these new voices be heard
Let’s hear their hearts and their words
and not be hard and unstirred by what they say

If we just lower the flag have a moment of silence
Discuss mental illness and virtual violence
And blithely decide that our work here is done
We’re just impotent citizens with fancy guns

Let all these beautiful ones
be treasured more than our guns