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Livin' in the Love of theCommon People

by adrien rain burke Sunday, Aug. 29, 2004 at 9:18 AM 818.353.7316

So some corporate bigwigs are planning a tribute to Johnny Cash for delegates to the RNC this year. Guess they haven't got enough trouble with all those restless demonstrators-without-a-park, huh?

Subject: Livin' in the Love of the Common People

So some corporate bigwigs are planning a tribute to Johnny Cash for

delegates to the RNC this year. Guess they haven't got enough trouble with

all those restless demonstrators-without-a-park, huh?

The Republicans always seem to miss the point, somehow. I remember when

Richard Nixon tried to use Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" as a

campaign theme song for his reelection bid. Yeah, THAT Woody Guthrie. I

guess they never did hear all the verses. This one, for instance:

As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there

And that sign said 'private property'

But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!

That side was made for you and me!

or this one:

In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple

Near the relief office - I see my people

And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'

If this land's still made for you and me.

The Guthrie family pitched a righteous, leftist fit. And since they have kept up with the copyright, they won.

But even before that incident, they'd invited Cash himself to the White

House and, in the course of his performance, asked him to sing "Welfare

Cadillac!" - an ugly, classist slander on the poor - proving again the truth of Julia Roberts observation that

"republican" comes between "reptilian" and "repugnant" in the dictionary.)

Your man refused, explaining that it wasn't part of his usual repertory (!), and

treated Nixon and Agnew to "What is Truth?*" instead. (Served 'em right).

*A little boy of three sittin' on the floor

Looks up and says, "Daddy, what is war?"

"son, that's when people fight and die"

The little boy of three says "Daddy, why?"

A young man of seventeen in Sunday school

Being taught the golden rule

And by the time another year has gone around

It may be his turn to lay his life down

Can you blame the voice of youth for asking

"What is truth?"

I can't think of a thing that Bush stands for that Cash would endorse, or

agree with, or celebrate, or sing about. Perhaps if I had enough time I

could, but right off - NO. Of course, they have both professed Christianity

- but they don't seem to have the same Jesus in mind at all. Take Cash's

moving rendition of this Nick Cave song, "The Mercy Seat:"

Into the mercy seat I climb

My head is shaved, my head is wired

And like a moth that tries

To enter the bright eye

I go shuffling out of life

Just to hide in death awhile

And anyway I never lied.

The song's chilling evocation of a man facing the electric chair just

doesn't fit with W's infamous, sinister glee whenever he had the opportunity

as governor of Texas to execute someone - which of course, he did often.

And then, neither of them ever back down. Bush is incapable of admitting an

error, or supposing for a moment that his worldview is wrong, or that God

didn't tell him to smite some enemy or other.

And Cash never backed down. Here's part of a verse he wrote explaining why

he always wore black:

". . . . I wear it for the thousands who have died,

Believin' that the Lord was on their side. . . . "

See? Different Jesus.

I have a Christian friend who's ecstatic at the prospect of the "End Times"

- which he believes are upon us. War is detestable and cruel, he admits

regretfully, but Bush is doing the RightThing in the Middle East because his

clumsy, yet brutal, approach is precipitating the excitement so luridly

portrayed in the Book of Revelations. I don't know whether Bush believes

that; certainly he wouldn't admit it in public if he did, but I know it's a

popular view among Bush's followers - including some highly placed in his

administration and, by his appointment, highly placed in Iraq. But, if Christianity IS the one true religion (an idea of which I am not at all convinced) - what if we were judged NOT by how docilely we collaborated in the apocalypse, but by how faithfully we followed Jesus' injunction to love our enemies?

THAT would be Johnny Cash's Jesus. The - um - humanist Jesus. Come to think

of it, that Jesus seems pretty scarce among the pious, professing Christians

of the OTHER state-sanctioned party as well these days. The Bible and the

Gun never got a better workup than they did at the Democratic convention in

Boston this year.

Nevertheless, The GOP's exploitation of the conveniently deceased Cash is

especially rotten and hypocritical, simply because their agenda is so very opposed to Cash's sympathy for the poor and forgotten.

It's also, well, stupid. By using Johnny Cash they are atracting ALL the

wrong kind of attention - attention which is certain to highlight the vast

differences between their dog-eat-dog, rich-eat-poor philosophy and the

pro-underdog voice they are so cynically hoping to profit by. I can only think

that, like Nixon haplessly quoting Woody Guthrie, they just didn't know.

So I think Cash's reputation will survive the outrage. Naturally, the rebels

and outcasts and fighters and lovers of New York City will be out in force

to protest this smirch on one of their number. There's already a website,, set up to organize a new sort of 'black

bloc,' and they are certain to be both creative and joyfully notorious. I am

anticipating their tactics as eagerly as Bush's theocratic nutcakes are

awaiting the thermonuclear End Of All Things.

Sadly, I won't be in NYC, but I am content that there will be plenty of

plain, black-clothed folks there, ready to show the GOP that Johnny will be

forever "Livin' in the Love of the Common People. . . . . . ."

Slán a chara,

Adrien Rain Burke

>>"One more such victory and we are undone."

>>>– Pyrrhus of Epirus

Art Kills. Want to Quit?

And remember, just because YOU survived art school, doesn't mean

your children will.

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