- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003

Gospel of Johnny

“[Johnny] Cash was a religious man, a staunch Christian. But I think you get the best sense of that not from his heartfelt recordings of gospel songs … but from the songs he recorded live at Folsom Prison in 1968.

“Consider the moment … when Cash sings, in ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’ ‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.’

“A great wave of cheering rolls forth from the audience, all of them convicted criminals. And although we can’t know for sure exactly why they cheer — and each of them may be cheering for a different reason — we can make a few pretty good guesses: First of all, the line is grimly funny. Second, some of them may have actually done the same thing themselves, for approximately the same reason. …

“But I wonder if some of them didn’t cheer for this reason: Here was a man who freely stood before them, singing in the voice of a character who had committed a crime that was probably colder, and worse, than any of the things they themselves had done. Cash’s message … was ‘I’m lowlier than you are’ — and with this, he handed them back some of their dignity.”

Stephanie Zacharek, writing on “Johnny Cash, 1932-2003,” Friday in Salon at www.salon.com

‘Enjoyable’ work

“Whenever I hear either men or women tell me that some part of their responsibilities as citizens, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, adult children is not ‘enjoyable,’ I always remember an experience my husband, son and I had while on a driving trip through Arizona and New Mexico. We stopped off for lunch at a small cafe in what appeared to be an [Old West] type ghost town. …

“[W]e got to go into an old, abandoned coal mine — a real one that had been worked by men supporting their families and producing power for their neighbors in a bygone era. … While in the tunnel I was struck by how dark, damp, cramped and difficult working in the mine had to have been. I couldn’t imagine anybody ‘enjoying’ the experience.

“The last few generations have been brought up with too much and too little: too much opportunity and things, too little gratitude and obligation. We actually have a large segment of our population that couldn’t imagine giving without getting, sacrificing out of obligation, suffering out of responsibility, following through out of honor.”

Laura Schlessinger, writing on “Tough life for stay-at-home moms?” Friday in WorldNetDaily at www.worldnetdaily.com

Political insults

“Good-government types are always decrying ‘voter apathy.’ One reason for it may be simple tedium: Our politicians just don’t coin the kinds of zingers that give spice to a campaign and spark to a career. …

“Henry Clay was described by an adversary as ‘a being so brilliant yet so corrupt, which, like a rotten mackerel by moonlight, shines and stinks.’ In 1856, Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner called Illinois’ Stephen Douglas a ‘noisome, squat and nameless animal’ and, in the same debate, said of South Carolina’s Andrew Butler that he had ‘chosen a mistress … who though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world is chaste in his sight — I mean the harlot, Slavery.’ This gibe prompted the famous caning incident, when Rep. Preston Brooks, a fellow South Carolinian, rose to Butler’s defense by belaboring Sumner about the head with a metal-topped walking stick.”

Eric Gibson, writing on “You, Sir, Are a Bore,” Friday in the Wall Street Journal

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