The first words out of pedal steel guitarist Travis Bruner's mouth on his rueful response to the failed insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, are "Stars and stripes/ We can't wear them anymore/ Since they broke windows and the dream."
It's a powerful way to set the scene for "Stars & Stripes," a post-insurrection lament released by Flagstaff-based Americana duo the Caverns on the first anniversary of a right-wing mob storming the Capitol to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Bruner wrote the lyrics after songwriting partner, Brian Gregory, shared a conversation he had with his 12-year-old daughter after Jan. 6. They talked about political attire and how it's come to have a different meaning for her generation than it did for his and Bruner's.
"The line, 'Stars and Stripes, we can't wear them anymore,' that was kind of inspired by my daughter's generation feeling like, 'Well, that sort of pigeonholes you as a Trump supporter or politically conservative,'" Gregory says.
"Where we thought everybody wore those on 4th of July."
Band was 'heartbroken' watching the violence at the Capitol
Musically, the duo did their best to underscore the tension and foreboding of the moment.
"It's one of those moments where it feels like things aren't as clear-cut and obvious as they used to be," Gregory says.
He and Bruner were "heartbroken" watching the violence at the Capitol unfold that day.
"One of the hallmarks of democracy is this peaceful transfer of power," Gregory says.
"And we have reached this moment where the information one person believes is so different than the information believed by somebody else that it was literally pulling the thread of the democracy apart and ripping the building apart that represents that."
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In expressing those feelings in song, he says, they found themselves asking 'What does this mean for us? What does this mean for our country that we love? For this society where we're trying to make our way and raise our kids and do the right thing?"
'Stars & Stripes' is the first song on an upcoming album
Gregory has always seen himself as patriotic.
"It's important to me to be patriotic," he says.
"But it's also important to me to not be associated with that QAnon, Trumpism, anti-science, misinformation thing that seems to be a big part of the way some people see and understand things. So I'm trying to find a way to be as patriotic as I can but still be an educated person and still seek truth."
"Stars & Stripes" is the first song released in advance of a forthcoming sophomore album titled "Like the Winter," which the Caverns recorded at home with mixing done by Elio DeLuca at the Soul Shop in Massachusetts.
The album features original tunes inspired by parenthood, politics, the pandemic lockdown, anxiety and love.
The Caverns have been performing in northern Arizona since 2019. Gregory is a business professor at Northern Arizona University and Bruner is Conservation Director for a local nonprofit, the Grand Canyon Trust.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona duo reflect on patriotism vs. Trumpism in insurrection lament