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April 23, 2007

"What's Going On?"

Derek Shackelford

Yesterday I was having a flashback and popped in my Marvin Gaye CD. Why I had decided to listen to Marvin Gaye on this particular occasion I could not answer. I think I just wanted to hear something with a nice beat.

One particular song caught my attention. It was "What's Going On." For some reason on this particular day, I listened with a more reflective consciousness.

As I surveyed the current landscape of the world and in my conversations with others, the question that is before all of is "What's Going On?" We really want to know that because - to a large degree - it appears we cannot make sense out of anything.

One of things that I enjoyed as a child growing up was just being a child. There was a sense that I was being protected from the world and I was just in the preparation stage, so when the time came I could be able to say "Come on World take your best shot."

But now it appears that young people are being exposed to a world that they are not ready for. We don't protect young people like we should. You can relate the greatness of a nation by how it treats its two most precious commodities - the elderly and the young. The elderly have the wisdom to sustain us and the young have the vitality to move us. So, as I think about what has happened recently, I can't help but ask "What's Going On?

A shock jock makes some disparaging remarks about African American women and loses his job. He then apologizes for the remarks. But he does not understand the magnitude of what he said. He then uses the excuse that some rap music contains these lyrics and this is what some of these people sing about and listens to.

Well, Don Imus, I do not hear you singing "Amazing Grace" or "We Shall Overcome." And to those who use this kind of lyrics to denigrate women and call them names, I say don't use the mantle of saying that you may rap about what you see and say that you are just keeping it real.

When each of us wakes in the morning and looks in the mirror, we don't leave the house with our hair messed up, clothes on backwards, and sleep still in our eyes. No, we use the mirror to correct what we see. Use the platform of music as a mirror to correct what we see. Somebody can pay us to put down our women and we go along to get along. To quote Maya Angelou, "See if a rapper calls First Lady Laura Bush out of her name and see how much they will get paid."

"What's Going On" with the Democrats and Republicans? Both parties are claiming to be the moral authority for doing what is best for the troops. Neither party can claim that they are doing what is best for the troops because if they were we wouldn't be in Iraq in the first place.

An overwhelming number of soldiers have not even begun to experience life yet and to find them in a war with no end in sight is unfair. Both sides argue back and forth while billions of dollars are been spent weekly. Neither party, it appears, has a plan to bring the troops home. And both appear to use them as propaganda for their own agenda.

"What's Going On" with the tragedy at Virginia Tech? "What's Going On" when a person is so angry that he not only takes their own life, but the life of 32 others, not to mention those who have been physically harmed as well as psychologically. Violence is part of the culture in which we live and we have accepted it as normalcy.

I could not help but think about those who were in class that day trying to get ahead, preparing to take on the world, and longing to stretch their wings only to have the life sapped from them. The protection of our young has been lifted and we allow the evils of despair to swallow them up. "What's Going On?"

As I listened to Marvin Gaye's social critique of the society in which he lived, I found myself doing the same. Just as I was about to get depressed in offering my own social critique, I turned the volume just a little bit louder to hear what he was saying.

What I found in the end was a sense of optimism because the ultimate goal of the song is to offer hope. We can only save ourselves if we learn to love together. Because if we don't, to quote the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "We either learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

We haven't learned how to live or love together, but I still have hope.

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