— Life —


“What’s Going On?,” Marvin Gaye’s rallying cry against America’s festering hate and social unrest, is still as relevant today as when it was released in 1971.

“My loved ones, today is the birthplace of forever.” Marvin Gaye

Devastated by the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles, Martin Luther King crusades, campus shootings, long conversations with his brother, Frankie, who’d returned from three years in Vietnam and the death of their cousin in Vietnam, Marvin Gaye was deeply affected by what was happening in a divided America. It’s now 46 years later, but what has changed? We’re still fighting the same wars.

Will we let a violent and divided rhetoric be our legacy? Will we ever pause long enough to really hear and understand one another with a calm, truthful dialog–“Tell me what’s going on. I’ll tell you what’s going on“–and to learn from our history? We can’t change the truth, but the truth–whatever it may be–can change us.

America is on the cusp of a second social and political Civil War. While the overwhelming majority of Americans believe racism, slavery and prejudice has no place in the world, erasing evidence of our shameful history will only strip future generations of their ability to learn from it. As it is, many Americans are poorly educated about the history of this great nation, as seen by the burning and vandalizing of a bust of Abraham Lincoln this week in Englewood, Illinois. Perhaps we move statues of people like General Robert E. Lee to museums along with a commentary as to who they were and the circumstances behind the times.

In this crazed rush to erase everything and everyone associated with slavery and the Civil War, where do we stop? Will we demand the banning of books and films like Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind or the exhumation of Confederate soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery? And if so, what part of American history–and our collective conscience–will we erase next?

Mother, mother

There’s too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There’s far too many of you dying

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today


Father, father

We don’t need to escalate

You see, war is not the answer

For only love can conquer hate

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today


Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

Talk to me, so you can see

Oh, what’s going on

What’s going on

Yeah, what’s going on

Ah, What’s going on


Mother, mother, everybody thinks we’re wrong

Oh, but who are they to judge us

Simply ‘cause our hair is long

Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some understanding here today


Picket lines and picket signs

Don’t punish me with brutality

C’mon talk to me

So you can see

What’s going on

Yeah, what’s going on

Tell me what’s going on

I’ll tell you what’s going on

Love, Brenda


  • Teri August 19, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Amazing how relevant those lyrics are today, Brenda. Although it hurts me to see visions of a wicked past, I do see your point.

    However, had there been a statue of Hitler, I would peacefully advocate for it to be removed because it’s presence would hurt so many trying to move forward. I feel the same way about images of those who embraced a more ignorant time in America.

    This post was beautifully stated and I did see another side to current news events. Good job. I think I’ll post a perspective post to hopefully make some think and embrace peace.

    • 1010ParkPlace August 19, 2017 at 9:03 am

      Thanks Teri for your thoughtful response. I’m not saying we should leave the monuments where they are. Perhaps we put them in a museum with a comment about the times and thinking behind their creation. Let’s just not strike it all from our history as though it never happened. You know the saying about those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. Brenda

  • Barbara August 19, 2017 at 9:28 am

    I don’t think we will ever lose our History, although the current president seems to not understand it most of us do. Moving the monuments to a museum, perhaps a section of the Smithsonian would be a good idea. I feel our country is raw now, like an open sore, and we know now which side the White House is on. It is truly a sad and frightening time for all of us.

    • 1010ParkPlace August 23, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Barbara, I hope we can all take a step back off the ledge and breathe, weigh both sides of every issue and really listen to those who may not have our exact viewpoint. We can’t let this spiral us into another civil war. We’re Americans first, Democrats, Republicans and Others second. xoxox, Brenda

  • lynn everitt August 19, 2017 at 10:42 am

    What’s so amazing to me is how a loving person like Barbara and I could be so far apart in our opinions. I can only guess it comes down to what we are putting into our brains thru media or reading. I am a loving human being who only wants the best for everyone and yet I have the opposite view as what she posted.

  • Brenda Coffee August 19, 2017 at 11:05 am

    You’re right. Barbara is a loving person. I’ve spent time with her, and she’s one of my favorite people! I believe the divide in America starts with where we get our news…. which has a major influence on how we perceive people and events. What if we all made a concentrated effort to watch both liberal and conservative news, even for a week? You’d be amazed at how each side takes the same event and edits it to present their political viewpoint. I was a journalist and still believe in “who, what, when, where and why.” Just the facts. No editorials. Every day for the last 10 years I’ve diligently consumed both sides and am shocked at what I’ve found. The truth does emerge, but I fear neither side will like it very much because we’re so entrenched in “what we believe.” May I suggest we don’t want to believe “our truth,” but THE TRUTH? It’s the only way I see for us to come together and find our way out of this horror, but I fear most of us won’t want to be that dedicated and open to learning truths that will most certainly step on our belief systems. Thanks so much, Lynn.

  • Diane August 19, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    What’s that saying? Something like: Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.

    • Brenda Coffee August 19, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      Exactly, Diane! When many of us don’t have a grasp on history as it is, and then we erase parts of it because it offends us… Put that together with a media that delivers biased, soundbite news, an American public that doesn’t work to discover the truth for themselves… We’re setting ourselves up to be manipulated by people and politics that don’t have America’s best interest at heart. Scares me! xoxox, Brenda

  • Mithra Ballesteros August 19, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Hmmm, somehow I’m not sure Marvin Gaye would object to these statues being systematically removed from public spaces. I think the mayor of New Orléans clarified the reason why they all need to be removed: it is not erasing history – rather, it is erasing the glorification of a terrible cause. He made this point too: isn’t it ironic that there are hundreds of memorials to those who fought to uphold slavery but there are no slave ships sitting in harbors, open for tours.

    • 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2017 at 10:18 am

      I like what the mayor of New Orleans said, and yes, Marvin Gaye would be happy. The nuance here is that they not totally disappear from our history. Perhaps a museum where, like other atrocities such as the Nazis and WWII, are on view as a reminder of the brutality of man so we don’t let it happen, again. Perhaps slave ships would be an excellent reminder of the inhumanness of it all. The concentration camps are still there as a reminder, and we continue to be appalled by them, as we should be. Thanks, Mithra. Brenda

  • Mamavalveeta03 August 20, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Unbelievably, I finally agreed with Newt Gingrich on something: “Good people don’t join in protests with neo-Nazis!”

    I echo Barbara and Mithra’s sentiments. To understand why the statues were erected…as strong warnings of Jim Crow segregation and intimidation to black citizens, not simply to honor Confederate heroes…is to know why they have to be put in a place of context (yes, a museum of some sort) where people can see these men as proponents of slavery and secession from the United States.

    Brenda, with all due respect, I have not heard one single voice calling for the disinterment of Confederate soldiers remains, nor banning of books and movies. And there is no reason to suspect that we will.

    • Brenda Coffee August 20, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      Hi Val, I agree about housing some of these things in a museum. And “no reason to suspect” we’ll call for the disinterment of soldiers or banning of books and movies? Never say never. Two years ago, Lou Lemnick of the NYPost suggested “Gone With the Wind” should go the way of the Confederate flag and be in a museum. I also was eavesdropping on a table of 30-somethings next to me at lunch the other day, and they echoed both of these points. While it was clear they weren’t racist, they were running the “let’s get rid of it” concept as far as it would go. They weren’t adamant about it, more like tossing the concept out there for intellectual discussion. xoxox, Brenda

  • Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski August 20, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    I’m all for moving them to museums or at least placing placards near them to educate others on the circumstances of what happened, why they were placed there and the culture and society at the time. Being Jewish, we have Museums of Tolerance and it would be better for them to be in something like that than idolized or desecrated. I remember learning when I was a child that there were separate bathrooms, restaurants and places to sit in buses and theaters in South. It seemed incomprehensible. I love that Marvin Gaye song. Thanks for sharing it. We all need it right now.

  • 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    Hi Rebecca, You make a great point about placing them in museums and educating people about the circumstances and what was happening in the country at the time. Hopefully that will be seen as the way to proceed as opposed to just banishing from public view altogether. I’ve found myself listening to this Marvin Gaye song again and again. Happy you like it as well. Thanks for adding your thoughts. I appreciate it. Brenda

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