Sunday, November 16, 2008

Johnny Cash made me do it

I'm listening to Johnny Cash this morning and it's got me thinking about my Dad. We didn't listen to much music as a family when I was growing up. Our background noise was generally either the boys fighting (with the neighbors, their sisters, each was always someone) or the television. But if there was music, it was hard core country.

I'm thinking about my Dad, partly because Johnny Cash reminds me of him. Not that my Dad was a crazy drug-taking, alcoholic, philanderer saved by his Christian wife. My dad's tribulations came mostly from his health, his wife and his kids -- but he and Johnny Cash were hard scrabble Christian men with simple rules.

Plus, Johnny Cash sings my favorite line of all time in his song about a boy named Sue: "kickin' and a gougin' in the mud, the blood and the beer." Yeah, it's a little vengeful and violent and I don't know why that rhyme sticks in my head. It's ultimately a song about redemption, doing the right thing and forgiveness. And, I bet you don't know this, Shel Silverstein, acclaimed children's author, wrote it.

Which brings me to my point: doing the right thing.

Whatever faith you subscribe to or have recently rejected, all religion comes down to those four words. Hell, even the atheists and Wiccans subsribe to that thought.

So I'm sitting here reflecting on an issue currently roiling my siblings; recent news that people across the country are talking about the need to assassinate Barak Obama because he had the temerity (as a gasp, black man!) to run for elective office and win; and legislation banning the right of some people to marry.

What's wrong with us? How hard is it , really, to do the right thing?

My Dad had a pretty simply philosophy about how to behave. He never pushed his Pentecostal faith on people -- other than his children. But when we were old enough to drive, he pretty much let us make up own mind about religion. My Dad went about his life doing what was right rather than preaching about it.

He gathered up food for the poor and distributed it -- even once in the middle of either Christmas or Thanksgiving Dinner (which royally ticked off my mother.)

He visited the local jails, offering a friendly face and a talk if it was wanted. (I don't think he ever ran across my brother there, although chances were sometimes good.)

He didn't seek out controversy, hoping always that people would work out their own differences first -- but he'd give advice if asked.

And if he or his kids did something wrong, he tried to make it right. My mind is foggy on specifics, but I know that I didn't fear anything more in my life (still don't) than disappointing my Dad -- falling short in his eyes. He would forgive you anything if you tried to make up for it, though.

So when I screw up -- and you know as well as I do, that I do it early and often -- I try to make it right. It doesn't always work -- but as long as I still try, I figure I'm not a total shit.

Let's hope these idiots talking about assassination just shut up and consider that people are people. I don't think that "in his image" thing ever said what pigment came with the ability to stand, speak and reason. I think it would be hilarious if God turned out to be a strong black woman. Wouldn't that set some heads to reeling?

For the heteros who think it's OK to deny gay couples rights like hospital visitation, the ability to make health care decisions when they can't and even basic insurance coverage, I just wish they'd examine the divorce rate. And then I wish they'd evaluate whether they qualify for the institutional rights their little trips down the aisle gives them. Maybe we should limit everyone to one marriage per lifetime. Anything more, you don't get the rights and perks -- would that do it? (I'm not saying people shouldn't get married as often as they want; I just think anyone who wants to do it should be able to.)

As for my family's issue du'jour, I shouldn't get too specific. I'm sure to offend someone -- if I haven't already. Let's just please do the right thing. WWDD, people?!

But back to Johnny. I don't know what the Man in Black would say about the state of our country today. But he sang once about why he wears black and essentially it was to represent all the people who didn't get a fair shake in life. Until things got better, he'd wear black.

Sadly, I think he'd have no need today to change his wardrobe. Here's your song for the day:

The Man in Black

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen, sister. ~ Tina