Essays

A collection writings and thoughts by artist Gary Llama.

Exploring the song: ‘Folded Flag’

In 2005, A man I grew up with was killed in the Iraq war. I grew up with him via High School and punk rock, and he was a friend of my closest friends. I had never experienced loss of a person I had known to war, and so the experience was an awakening.

His death, personalized me to the term “we”. As in it’s use of “We”, the United States. I had been working in businesses, living as a citizen, and electing folks to office, all in the hopes that my efforts would support what I wanted to see in the world: More peace.

All of a sudden the “We” went beyond the academic or logical admissions of failure that “We” as a people, had made on the fronts of working towards peace, and now admitted a complicity and a responsibility in the actions of our government, that now resulted in a personally connected loss. On that day I began to see politics, and it’s essential nature of arguing over points of view, as not ever worth human suffering.

I wrote a song about it called ‘Folded Flag’ a few months later. I released it the following year on the “This Malaise Is Our Grave” EP, as F*BOX. It’s seems simple and benign on the outside, through no intention of mine, but i will pull back the lyrics a bit to explain them at each line.

(NOTE: I’m not including my friends name here, as I would not want to exploit his family or name for my view of what happened. These lyrics are how I interpreted the event. And accordingly, should not effect his families memory of his life or intentions. I went back and forth numerous times of if it was even appropriate to write a song about. In the end, I decided I could document my reaction to it. I understood why he signed up, and as all I ever knew of him was that he was a very very good person, with very good intentions. And It pains me, as I know it does others, that he is gone. RIP man.)

“she’s been sleeping, since the morning we failed to wake / Responsibility we failed to take”

The morning of 9/11, and the days following, America was filled with compassion for those that lost their lives. I hoped that we might awake to the realization that fighting wars leads to more wars, that was why, after all, someone had chosen to attack us: The attacker viewed our violence against them as worthy of an attack. And the attacker had actually been trained by us years ago to help fight our mutual enemies. But we decided to wage another war, in the hopes that we might bring peace. And so the most powerful nation in the world, fed back into the cycle of violence that has plagued Mankind since it’s earliest years.

“Our dreams are recursive / We fight the battle we already fought / loose more life each time we’ve lost”.

This was our second war with Iraq. Why Iraq? Ask Colin Powell, despite Saddams’ son in law, Hussein Kamel al-Majid, whom had defected years before, and had made a statement that all WMD’s were destroyed previously, and knew this as he was leader of the WMD program, and CIA confirmed this.

And still, we went back to war.

The allusion to war as a dream draws upon the presence of War on TV like CNN, where war is turned into decontextualized, non-real time soundbites, usually with a different narrative, not much different than a dream. And as I view all war as promoting war, I believe each time we decide to fight, we have lost the battle for peace.

“is anyone keeping score anymore / cuz I can’t see from the photo but I swear I keep loosing my friends”.

This is in response to General Tommy Franks statement that “We don’t do body counts”, the famous remark he made when questioned how many Iraqi civilians had been killed, which at the time was estimated in the hundreds of thousands. The second line is in reference to the infamous rule the US instituted during the war, blocking of photographers from the area of Dover Airbase where the caskets, or flag-draped “transfer cases” of soldiers whom have died in combat are unloaded.

“The cemetery is filled with the dead / like a sea of marble flowing to the edge”.

Thats the visual image I remember of Arlington National Cemetery, where my friend was buried.

“Republican Blue / Someone’s waiting blood, Democrat Red / What we’ve left behind / Its all the same, on a folded flag”.

These are references to waiting blood, and blood spilled. And that waiting blood, blue with patriotism, and an honest belief in defending this country as a good thing. Though I feel differently, I respect the beliefs of those willing to fight wars. The sad part is that in this war, perhaps some of that intention may have been influenced by the lies that led us into Iraq.

Also, The idea is that both parties, regardless of position on other issues, both fought for the war. Very few stood up and asked for a moment to consider other options. And perhaps that has to do with all politicians wanting to seem strong, and the western view of Anti-Violence as a position of weakness.

And the flag part, well, watching my friend’s ex and son receive that flag really stuck with me, especially with the all that was happening. In that moment, All that seemed to matter in the world was that someone had lost their life. Its was really focused and powerful.

Additionally, as I had not noted much of formal politics, I remembered the party colors wrong, blame Bush’s propensity for wearing blue ties, I figured they were his colors. My sister noted this before I released the song, but I figured it was somewhat Freudian in my opinion that both parties are essentially the same.

(repeat)

Then the song repeats. Because, while this was the first time such a tragedy has played out in my life, it is just part of a cycle of violence that has effected millions of folks, and will continue to until we begin to see actions and intent as more important than the lines or policies we have divided ourselves by.

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Llamatism is a collection of things, a cabinet of curiosities, and reports from explorations on things, by Gary Llama.

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