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#ThrowbackThursday: “As” by Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder "As"" Tamla Motown Records
  – Stevie Wonder "As"" Tamla Motown Records

by Sean Smith

Last Thursday night four members of the Dallas Police Department and one from the Dallas Area Rapid Transit police were gunned down by a killer who allegedly carried out his sick acts of violence in response to some recent deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement. Philando Castile was shot by an officer in Minnesota during a traffic stop and Alton Sterling was shot by a cop while standing outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The deaths of ALL of these men were tragic and unnecessary. As I watched the situation unfold on television last Thursday night I was overwhelmed with a bunch of feelings. I was heartbroken at the loss of life. I felt a sense of hopelessness about the direction of our society. But more than anything I was angry. Angry at the seemingly endless acts of violence occurring in our country. Angry that after 240 years, America still hasn’t been able to solve the issues with race that we have had since our founding.

That anger I was feeling only built as I turned on my computer and saw some of the comments and assertions that some people were making on social media. It wasn’t that people were introducing politics into the situation. That didn’t bother me. I think exploring if or how public policy can be changed to address what happened, and possibly reduce the chance of it happening again is a positive and productive step forward following a tragedy. So it wasn’t that people were talking politics that furthered my anger, it was rather the tone of some of the people taking to social media to sound off. I saw a lot of the “us” versus “them” mentality being expressed. People not wanting to have a conversation, but rather talk at people. People with predispositions that left them close-minded and an unwillingness to listen to anyone with a differing opinion. No attempt to empathize or try to understand those who viewed the tragedies, and the lead up to them, in a different way.

This feeling of despair was acknowledged by former President George W. Bush in remarks he made during an interfaith memorial service held for the fallen officers in Dallas this past Tuesday.

“At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates too quickly into dehumanization. Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”

President Barack Obama also attended the memorial service and also addressed the reactions by many in the wake of recent events.

“We turn on the TV or surf the Internet, and we can watch positions harden and lines drawn, and people retreat to their respective corners, and politicians calculate how to grab attention or avoid the fallout.  We see all this, and it’s hard not to think sometimes that the center won’t hold and that things might get worse. I understand.  I understand how Americans are feeling.” 

The President then went on to try and provide some hope to the nation. He said that “we are not as divided as we seem,” and he urged for us to have compassion and understanding for one another by having an open heart. Words of wisdom that many Americans, including myself, needed to hear.

Prior to President Obama speaking at the interfaith service, Dallas Police Chief David Brown used music as a way to get across his message. He quoted Stevie Wonder and his 1977 single “As” from his iconic album Songs in the Key of Life.

We all know sometimes life’s hate and troubles can make you wish you were born in another time and place. But you can bet your life times that, and twice its double, that God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed. So make sure when you say you’re not in it, but not of it, you’re not helping to make this Earth a place sometimes called hell. Change your words into truth and then change that truth into love. And maybe your children’s grandchildren and their great great grandchildren will tell them I’ll be loving you.”

So this week we remember Stevie Wonder’s fourth single from his 1976 Songs in the Key of Life album. May we all make a serious attempt at approaching others with an open heart and with a spirit of understanding, because only then can we create an environment that allows us to have an open discussion about how to address some of the many real issues currently plaguing our country. And in doing so, make a better world for our children and grandchildren to grow up in.

Stevie Wonder 

“As”

From Songs In The Key Of Life

Tamla/Motown Records

Related Media

Dallas Police Chief David Brown’s Speech 

From Dallas Memorial Service July 12, 2016

President Barack Obama Speech 

From Dallas Memorial Service July 12, 2016

President George W. Bush Speech

From Dallas Memorial Service July 12, 2016