The newscaster announced that Johnny Cash had died, representing a part of America that is just about gone. I thought about that, the part of America, and what is just about gone.
Yes, the America that's gone. The dirt poor farms, where men like Johnny's dad worked on a federal land-reclamation scheme. Johnny says, that he remembers their first night there, sleeping in the truck under a tarpaulin, with his two brothers and two sisters. He recalled, "The last thing I remember before going to sleep was my mother beating time on the old Sears-Roebuck guitar, singing'What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul?". His song, Five Feet High and Rising, recalled the night the Cash family had to be evacuated when the river overflowed.
The small tenant and cotton farms gone now. Taken over by the mega-corporate industrial pigs. West Virginia, sees the EPA having no problem with mountain moving machines, raping the land, destroying a mountain in a day for the wealthy mine owners. America, now the land of chemical plants, hog farms, chicken factories, casinos, waste dumps, and prisons. Yes, America's howl of the poor and beaten down lost. No more can a boy with a guitar make his way from the hills of Arkansas or West Virginia to Nashville. That's gone to the glitz of rhinestones and big money, fancy sound equipment and connections.
It was said of Johnny, that he never was "seduced" by the money or showmanship of it all. He never went the way of so many others, giving his music over to showmanship, in lieu of the telling of those struggling, and in poverty; outside the warm circle of pretend country--pretend simple living--pretend poverty. One can't sing nor write of , what one hasn't lived. Not with heart that is. That's why, many will have the words, but never the knowing, of a young boy pickin' cotton and listening to his moma singing on the porch with a Sears guitar.
Can anyone imagine the spoiled, pampered, coddled, powdered youth of today; looking through a Sears catalog? Not with their designer lives and designer tastes, and demands for this, and the best of that! You knew that you'd never get the toys or clothes that you picked out, but somehow there was a certain joy just sittin' on the porch and pretend shopping. I watched a TV news (?) program the other evening, that showed videos (they taped their crimes) of well-to do youth in Las Vegas, beating, kicking and plummeting other unsuspecting youths, they laid in wait for. Amusing themselves, out of pampered materialistic boredom! Johnny Cash at their age, was dreaming of going north to the auto factories and making a living. Now, the auto industry is gone, along with the foundries, mills, and farms and machine shops. Youth, if they're not part of the rare, protected, coddled few; are sent off to war or end up in the industrial prison system.
There's no more Johnny Cash in Black speaking for; "The poor and beaten down, livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town. Just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back, up front there ought to be a Man in Black." No one to sing about the lines at soup kitchens, those without medicines, schooling or the millions of unemployed. The elite, sniff their brandy, gather at their tent picnics, and discuss politics, and some of the guilt they feel over making so much profit, from their military industrial stocks or tax breaks; but not enough to sell all, and become one with those whom they so profess to care for!
One doesn't see any parcels of their acres of land being given over to others. They make sure that their protected post card villages, have no housing for the needy or elderly located near them; nor ugh, any polluting chemical plants or hog farms. But, now they do feel bad and that supposedly makes them one with the poor! They announce to all, that their lands--monies--investments etc., are tied up and protected conveniently in trusts and foundations. Whatever, the crisis or need in the community, you'll hear a, "Gosh what's to do, we'd like to help, but future family members must be made secure, our monies can't be touched." Johnny's parents, didn't have this to worry about when they sent their boy out into the world. No college fund waiting for him or trip abroad, to experience other lands, before that job at the auto factory or appliance store! It's fine for people to be rich, hoard their money, take their trips, invest in whatever destroys and pollutes the land; if that's the repulsive choices they've made; but they should stay to themselves, and stop pretending any poverty, caring , simple living or environmental advocacy to others. If they want to be poor, for real, it's a simple act, but then we won't see that. It's just cheap talk to impress themselves and others. Mojo Nixon said it best in his song of, Let's Burn Ole Nashville Down; "Any fool can wear a hat and not move when they play, but the lonesome howl of the white trash wolf can't be heard today. Country don't have flutes."