By: Stuart Blake Hayden
Feb 25th, 2013
Dedicated to “the people inside VSPW and all over…” We the Common inspires universal compassion. Herein, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down recognize the inherent loveliness of all people, including, and exemplified by, those incarcerated at Valley State Penitentiary for Women.
From its outset, We the Common makes the case for empathy, personalizing an alternative perspective which begets social understanding. The title track gives voice to the “common” person, Valerie Bolden; “All they wanted was a villain, a villain, and all they had was me. All they wanted was a villain, a villain, so then they just took me.” Such vilification, regardless of legal merit, Thao suggests, tends toward dehumanization; “If by third degree you feel a guilt for me, then I’ve been a villain all my life….There is a concrete stuck between how we breathe and why we die.” Inmate #72963, the “common,” effectively “was just paper being moved.” Instead, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down advocate for the recognition of oneself, of personhood, in another; “That is my city in shame. Those are my friends inside. If I lay still through this, shame if I rest tonight.” Injustice anywhere, in otherwords, equates to injustice everywhere.
Empathy, thereby, begets forgiveness. We the Common acknowledges the potential of any individual to have “Clouds for Brains.” And, although it may “Rain for days…and hurt you some,” “Every Body,” needs “Big Love” to “come eat [them] up.” By recognizing and relating to “human troubles in the modern times,” “The Feeling Kind” of people “Let not the hot blood boil in vain.” The Common person has caught “worried, early death enough.” Via compassion, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down demand “No more of the reasons you’ve got plenty of.” Consequently, compassion spreads throughout humanity whereby the “last one forgave me, so I forgive the next.”
Ultimately, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down advocate for the ability of all individuals, despite transgressions, to recover, to progress, to “wake up,” to “startle and change,” and to get “a brand new way.” We the Common can “Rest and be strong. Wash and be clean. Start a new year whenever you need.”