Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison
So, I wrote this whole Day Two blogging challenge post thingy and I really hated it in the end. It was about politics, and I don’t want to talk about politics on Shabbat, the night when we’re all supposed to sit together and eat fattening twisted bread and thank G-d for his many blessings. I want to talk about the documentary I watched today instead.
It was the last day of my week off, which wasn’t much of a week off for a few million busy reasons, but I decided to sit down and watch some Netflix. If you know me you that I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan (Okie here), and I saw that there was a documentary about Johnny and Nixon called Tricky Dick and the Man in Black.
The documentary begins by showing how patriotic Johnny was, how he “never disrespected the presidency” that this was something he believed firmly in. Then, comes the thousands of deaths in Vietnam, then comes protests in the street. And in the street protests, Johnny sees young people on the hunt for truth, not lies neatly packaged in apple pie. He slowly starts to move away from this idea that if you burn the American flag you deserve to be shot (something he’d announced at more than one concert in the past). He started to think that maybe Americans were being lied to, and only the youth were catching on to this.
So, he’s asked to sing at the White House, because the Republicans believe that country music is teeming with pro-America/pro-Nixon people. Richard Nixon is actually the first president to begin tying Southern culture directly to the image of patriotism and Americanism. The president wants to use Johnny Cash to turn the doubters towards him, just when his popularity is beginning to wane.He believes all they need to do is here a little honkey-tonk and their brains will shut off. The youth also have an affection and trust for the guy whose best selling album was recorded at a California federal prison. He understood something about being authentic, something the emerging Baby Boomer generation was aching for. The president understood this as well.
He was told to sing whatever songs he wished, but told also to include the offensive “Cadillac Welfare” song and the anti-hippy “Okie From Muskogee” to appeal to Southern bigots. He agreed to, and then, instead sang a song called “What is Truth?”. It made Tricky Dick mighty uncomfortable, and revealed that Johnny knew something, even then, about what a liar that piece of crap in the oval office was. I don’t want to give away everything (though it’s a documentary and not a thriller), but let me just say you should see it. It’s so relevant to say that even presidents can be the worst of people and guys who visit the prisoners can be the best and protesters are exercising their American right to challenge the powers that wish to blind them to reality.