This post may offend some of you. It might dredge up painful feelings. It might cause some to be angry with me. While it is not normally in my nature to do such things – good. Get involved.
Artist Dan Quirk desecrated a flag. I normally find such an act fairly abhorrent, though I believe to my very core that that is what the Founding Fathers wanted to protect when they wrote the First Amendment – that every person has the God-given and inalienable right to protest against the Government without fear of reprisal from said Government. I can think of few more powerful protests than the burning of a flag.
That isn’t what Danny Quirk was doing here. Even if you disagree with his methods, he is trying to call attention an American travesty- the 22 veteran suicides that occur every day. I applaud his efforts.
Generally speaking, I make my art with paint, and apply it to paper or skin to achieve an end product. Today, I did up a something a little different, something a little harder hitting than manipulated paper, to highlight veteran suicides. On average, an astonishing 22 vets commit suicide each day. To address that terrifying statistic, I made up a piece using an American flag. The flag was shot 22 times, to create a series of randomly placed holes. Each hole was slightly burned to increase the diameter of each hole and partially buried, to emulate a cremation or traditional funeral. From there, water was dripped over each ‘wound’ to emulate tears of a lost loved one. The effect of the fire and dirt created a war torn look, which addressed the wars, and the 22 holes commemorated the 22 vets who take their lives each day. My stance behind making the piece was to get viewers to see the 22 suicides per day, and FEEL it — not just brush it off as another statistic. The flag is obviously symbolic of America, and every time a vet kills them self, America looses a part of itself. I wanted to make something that was emotionally hard hitting, something that got people talking, but most importantly got them thinking. If come the end of the day, my putting holes in a flag is more offensive to you than families putting holes in the ground, because their loved ones put a hole in their head, than you’re missing the whole of it. Thanks for looking, thanks for talking about the piece, and PLEASE ** note** this piece was not made out of disrespect, rather, to address a greater cause.
I have been hanging onto this for a while. I considered running it last Veteran’s day, but I felt that the chance of causing someone pain on a day meant to honor them was not worth it. So I saved it for Flag Day.
As much as I admire and respect anyone who has worn that flag on their shoulder in service of the country, veterans do not have sole claim to the flag. It belongs to all of us. I saluted that flag on the day I earned my Eagle Scout. I wore that same patch on my sleeve when I ran into burning buildings or responded to EMS calls as a member of the College Township Fire Department. I have given a great deal of thought and contemplation to what exactly the flag means to me.
So I am sharing this desecrated flag with you in hopes that it does in fact make you angry. Angry that our Government has reneged on the promise it made to those who risked their lives in service to the Nation. Angry that cronyism, misplaced priorities, and sheer incompetence have failed our veterans. Get involved.
There are scores of charities that help our veterans. Some that advertise heavily might not be the best choice, so do your homework. Often smaller, focused charities can make a disproportionate difference. I personally am involved with Project Healing Waters, which uses flyfishing as a vehicle to rehabilitate wounded veterans. You can read more here, as well as see an amazing presentation-quality Damascus steel Model 15 that Kim Breed donated to a PHWFF benefit auction last fall – if you haven’t seen it. That is a cool story as well.
That is just one. I happen to have done my homework on PHWFF and fully support their efforts. But look around. It might be as simple as buying a vet a cup of coffee and listening to their story. It doesn’t matter what you do, just that something needs to be done.
If it took an artist desecrating a flag to get you riled up enough to do something, so be it.
22 Veteran Suicides a day is a not a tragedy. That is because tragedies are sometimes not preventable. It is a travesty because it is a failure of will – our elected leaders lack the courage to fix a problem that has been known for too long.
Another Danny Quirk piece: (De)Facing PTSD: