FEATURE: The Divided State of America: Can Music Help Bring About Much-Needed Gun Law Progressiveness? 




The Divided State of America


ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: Rick Calzi/Dying Breed 

Can Music Help Bring About Much-Needed Gun Law Progressiveness? 


ONE can hardly ignore the terrible…


 IN THIS PHOTO: A woman touches a cross at a makeshift memorial for victims outside Walmart, near the scene of a mass shooting on 3rd August, 2019 which left twenty-two people dead in El Paso, Texas/PHOTO CREDIT: Press/Getty Images

events that happened in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Another two mass shootings in America has horrified the world but, in a nation where this sort of tragedy happens on a fairly regular basis, it seems like change and evolution is going to be a struggle. The sense of stubbornness regarding gun laws in the U.S. is compounded by an ignorant President Trump who, one feels, could not care less about the lives lost in Texas and Ohio; someone whom will never act to ensure we see far fewer deaths of this kind in the future. Will we see an end to gun violence in America? It is hard to see anything moving forward when we have Trump in The White House. Trump’s explanation (regarding the massacres) is that the gunmen had mental-health issues. The fact that the vast majority of gun massacres – and knife crime in the U.K. – are perpetrated by men sort of dismisses such a statement – why would women be able to control their mental-health issues a lot better than men?! I do think that the more logical explanation regards a white supremacy mindset, fuelled and fostered by Trump’s own beliefs regarding minorities. The fact one can relatively easily obtain a gun in the U.S. makes it so easy for radicalists to kill at will. It is sobering and heartbreaking seeing news stories coming through where innocent lives have been lost for no reason – what exactly do massacres achieve regarding certain minorities living in America and ‘learning’ a lesson?

The sheer insanity and barbarism we have all seen on the news over the past week should open eyes in America and compel the Government to make resolutions and amend legislation. We all know that will not happen in a nation where a written constitution gives people the ‘right’ to bear arms – although the Second Amendment concerns protection and the military rather than giving license to unhinged humans to spread chaos and hate. Something needs to change, radically, that is for sure! Whether through song or online anger, musicians have a lot of power and influence. I shall come to Lana Del Rey shortly but, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, artists took to social media and were keen to register their distress and sympathy. This article from Vanity Fair explains more:

 “After the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend, musicians were among the most vocal celebrities demanding action. Rihanna implored Donald Trump to use the word “terrorism.” Jason Isbell accidentally sparked a Twitter meme about feral hogs (really) after tweeting, “If you’re on here arguing the definition of ‘assault weapon’ today you are part of the problem. You know what an assault weapon is, and you know you don’t need one.”) Kacey Musgraves tweeted, responded to a follower who told her to “stick to the singing,” and urged a Lollapalooza crowd to yell “somebody fucking do something!”

IN THIS PHOTO: Lana Del Rey/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

Lana Del Rey, meanwhile, headed more or less straight to the studio to record her response with Jack Antonoff. On Monday, she posted it to Instagram: a new song called “Looking for America.” “I’m still looking for my own version of America,” she sings. “One without the gun, where the flag can freely fly.” It’s a rough, in-studio video recording that conveys its immediacy. “Now I know I’m not a politician and I’m not trying to be so excuse me for having an opinion,” she wrote in the caption. “But in light of all of the mass shootings and the back to back shootings in the last couple of days which really affected me on a cellular level I just wanted to post this video that our engineer Laura took 20 minutes ago”.

Looking for America is an excellent song and one that stands out in its own right but also makes one think. One sees visions of Lana Del Rey enjoying an America with drive-ins and care-free times; where the flag can fly free and people can walk the streets safely – as safely as one can in any nation. I have listened to the song a lot and it is stirring hearing these messages come out. I think it is great an artist like Lana Del Rey was motivated to head into the studio and record something as raw and emotional as Looking for America. There are political artists out there and, around the world, we are discovering songs that tackle inequality, poverty and gender equality.


PHOTO CREDIT: @yohannlibot/Unsplash

I do wonder, at a time when America is troubled and unwilling the budge regarding gun laws, whether artists need to put some pressure on the Government – not just in the form of songs but also concerts and speeches. It is difficult to compromise possible record deals and fan opinion by having a say but who could possibly object to anger and passion from artists who want to see change in America?! In the U.K., there is a worrying rise in knife crime and we have a few artists documenting this trouble and worrying situation. I do think, however, only artists from certain genres are talking about knife crime and it means there are swathes of the industry that are not doing their part. Even if you do not live in areas affected by knife violence, you cannot help but feel a sense of compassion and fear – feeling heartbroken but also concerned not enough is being done to limit deaths. The same must be true in America. I know so many artists feel disgusted and angry that very little is happening to sure the nation’s citizens are protected against the threat of guns. Although there is a lot of online protest, this is not translating into musical expression. Although Lana Del Rey’s Looking for America is not an explicit and inflamed track that calls out President Trump – it is more a yearning for a past America; one where one felt safer -, it was written in reaction to the recent shootings.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Bob Dylan/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

You cannot help but feel struck and affected when hearing the song. As I keep saying…there is a commercial risk if you mix politics into the blend but I do think there is a yearning for progression and a ban on gun sales. I have to cast my mind back to the protest songs of Bob Dylan in the 1960s to think of a time when a huge artist made such an impression with political music. Maybe I am over-exaggerating but it is a very long time since an artist has reacted to the chaos around them in such a profound and striking way. I do not think musicians alone can take America from where it is now to where it needs to be but, yes, I do think that massive movement and a united front can reach political minds. It is not only music that can affect political motivation: film and T.V. has the potential and power to open eyes and affect minds. I think a lot of the problems in America stem from figures like Donald Trump and a very poisonous mindset. A lot of people buy into his feelings regarding immigration and keeping America pure. If politicians in America are making the possibility of change impossible, I do feel musicians can take charge. Maybe we will not see a total ban on the sale of assault weapons and handguns but conversations can be broached and, with a wave of musicians incentivised and together, there is a chance progression can happen.  I have been thinking a lot about Lana Del Rey watching the T.V. and being hit hard by the casualties; the awful and senseless violence that compelled her to write Looking for America. Who knows how many other artists – from all genres – have been affected and changed by so many tragedies in the U.S. I do think now is the time for some of music’s biggest names to rise up against an ever-corrupt and troubled Government who are helping to fuel hatred. I am not putting all the blame on them but, really, how many more massacres will it take before they realise things cannot carry on this way?! Artists would not be spreading propaganda or pushing any ideals: instead, they are discussing what is obvious and terrible. It may take a lot of consensus and focus from artists to get the wheels rolling but, as Lana Del Rey looks for an America that is safe, united and accepting, it seems that there is…


 PHOTO CREDIT: @kj2018/Unsplash

AN awful long way to go.