What’s Going on in Pasadena?

Opinion by Terry Miller

Marvin Gaye’s superb and deeply moving song “What’s Going On” is perhaps more pertinent now than when it was released in the year of my graduation, 1971. Evoking the hope that we can overcome hate with love, Gaye’s wistful voice asks each of us to find a way to end brutality and simply love our fellow man.

While the song refers to the Vietnam War, 2020 is also a year of tremendous turmoil in just about every sense of the word and Pasadena is now seeing an escalation of social unrest and division. Perhaps we need to take heed of the power of music in this most important song from that sad time in American history.

The shooting of Anthony McClain by Pasadena police in August and, more recently, Eddie Van Halen’s passing have somehow become interlinked and a catalyst for descent, disregard and hatred of the police, city officials and just about anything that spells “establishment.”

Numerous makeshift memorials for Anthony McClain have been erected and systematically removed (by city public works) several times. Now, in the midst of this controversy, the city is now considering a permanent memorial for a famous musician who called Pasadena home after much public outpouring.

This does not sit well with Black Lives Matter activists who are reeling from months of protests about police brutality and subsequent killing of Black men at the hands of police officers. Combine this with the city removing McClain memorials and simultaneously agreeing to honor a rock star — you have a perfect storm.

Just two weeks ago, Black Lives Matters organized a McClain memorial placement outside Mayor Terry Tornek’s home. Tornek was not pleased.

Even more recently, it was reported in a local blog, a meeting for the community to get to know their local officers — “Coffee with a Cop “ — was abruptly cancelled when a group of angry protesters thwarted that effort at a Pasadena Starbucks. Replete with bullhorn, the protesters admonished the police saying, “We love coffee, but we hate police.” Some in the crowd yelled “Oink Oink.”

If the energy these young people exude could be transmitted into votes, perhaps we could really change the status quo and fulfil the dream of so many men and women of peace.

Perhaps we need to take an inward look at our collective anger and revisit Gaye’s anthem. Hate is never the answer.

“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, eh eh

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, oh oh oh

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…”

Marvin Gaye, 1971

November 3, 2020

About Author

tmiller Terry Miller has been in the newspaper business for 35 plus years, following in the footsteps of his father who was a Foreign Correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph when the family sailed to New York from London abroad the Queen Mary. When not shooting pictures, chasing a breaking news story. or playing drums, Miller spends entirely too much time and effort with Little British Sports Cars like his beloved 74 MGB...more like an addiction, says his wife of 22 years.

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