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"Johnny Cash was NOT a Republican"
The songs of Johnny Cash--"the Man in Black"--were beacons of light for those who were unjustly locked up, kicked down, and knocked around. He sang from his heart for the poor, the imprisoned, and the oppressed.
And, as John Nichols wrote in his Nation weblog after Cash's death last year, "Though he was not known as an expressly political artist, Cash waded into the controversies of his times with a passion. Like the US troops in Vietnam who idolized him, he questioned the wisdom of that war. And in the mid-1960s, at the height of his success, he released an album that challenged his country's treatment of Native Americans."
But it was his songs which really marked him as a man of the people. He took sides in his songs, and he preferred the side of those imprisoned by the law--and by poverty and hard luck.
Yet, this Tuesday the GOP and the American Gas Association, a network of 154 utility multinationals, are shamelessly trying to appropriate the singer-songwriter's legacy by hosting an exclusive "celebration" of Cash for the Republican delegation from Tennessee inside the elite corridors of Sotheby's auction house.
In response, an ad-hoc group of activists have created a website to honor Cash's memory (www.defendjohnnycash.org) and to express what is safe to say would be Cash's outrage over the Bush Administration's malign neglect of the poor in this country. Do you think Cash would be supporting the President's economic policies? How about the Iraq war? If you think the answer is "no," then come join other Johnny Cash defenders at 4:00pm (dressed in black if you'd like) on Tuesday, August 31st, at Sotheby's at 1334 York Avenue in Manhattan.
As the call to action reads: "Bring your black clothing, pompadour, guitars (real or cardboard), hair grease, singing voice, megaphones, jail-stripes, skeleton costumes, signs, art, posters, CD players, boom-boxes, musical instruments, Johnny posters and records, and, of course, your favorite political Cash lyrics as big as you can print 'em!"
Click here for more info, click here for a bio of Cash's life and click here to read some of the song lyrics that made Cash a legend.
And check out a Tennessee group that is doing work in Cash's tradition: Music Row Democrats, formed in December 2003 by a group of Nashville music industry leaders who were "fed up with feeling as if they had to apologize for being Democrats, particularly when they knew that Republican policies were negatively affecting the lives of the working class people who make up much of the audience for their music."
We'll continue to highlight some of the hundreds of anti-RNC protests, panels, presentations and parties as the RNC draws closer, so watch this space for details and let us know about any activities you think we should be featuring by clicking here.
*REPRINTED FROM INFOSHOP:
Bloc Celebrates Johnny Cash’s Legacy at the RNC!
By Kirsten Anderberg
Erin Siegal, aka Rine, was listening to Johnny Cash while checking her email a while ago, when she read a post from RNCnotwelcome.org about an event planned to take place during the Republican National Convention (RNC) being held in New York City at the end of August. The event, being held for RNC delegates, is to take place at Southeby’s, and will be in honor of Johnny Cash. The event is sponsored by the American Gas Association (http://www.aga.org), a multinational corporation whose membership includes gas companies in Brazil, Korea, and France, among others. Erin says, “It made me really sad…When it was announced that Johnny Cash’s name would be tied to the 2004 RNC, my blood boiled. It was just too offensive, too outrageous…Johnny Cash is a people’s hero.” So, acting like any reasonable activist would, she organized a Man-And-Woman-In-Black Bloc (http://www.defendjohnycash.org) , to protest outside the Sotheby’s event on August 31 at 4 pm, to defend Johnny’s good name.
Erin said when she talked to people initially about the Man-In-Black Bloc idea, she got a very positive response. I asked if this was a grassroots movement (tongue and cheek), and Erin responded it was a “concrete-cement movement.” “I hesitate to even call this a grassroots protest - there isn’t a whole lot of grass in NYC and Brooklyn…It stems from the concrete resistance we hold in our hearts to the defamation of the memory of Johnny Cash. We’re passionate. We won’t let the G.O.P get away with this. From the cement of the sidewalk up, we’re painting and talking and doing everything we can to let people know about this. The city is with us; we just have an enormous responsibility to let everyone know.” “Rising up to defend the honor of Johnny Cash,” people are asked to show up to peacefully protest out front of Southeby’s, wearing black clothing and pompadours, with real or cardboard guitars, hair grease, jailstripes, Johnny posters and records, and posters of your favorite of Johnny’s lyrics printed as big as possible. I asked how they were organizing this protest, and she said they were putting up flyers, passing the word along via word of mouth, contacting unions and Johnny Cash fan websites, sending out press releases to media, etc. They need help flyering now, they printed up 4,000 fliers. If you can help put up flyers, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Their poster says, ““NO CASH FOR THE RICH. Johnny, we won’t let the greedy war-hungry Republicans exploit your memory by throwing a party affiliated with your good name.” Their platform is clear: “Johnny Cash sang for the poor and under-represented. The Republicans speak for the rich. Johnny Cash advanced for prison reform. The Republicans lock us up. Johnny Cash sang for our miners, farmers, and workers. Republican economics crush the working class. The RNC has no right to tarnish the memory of Johnny Cash. We will rise up to defend the honor of an American hero...
“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... 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…” - Johnny Cash
Erin said her cousin just got home from being stationed in the Middle East on military duty. And she found Johnny’s lyrics about war to be as relevant now, as they were when Cash wrote them. Cash sings: “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.” – Johnny Cash
Can we expect to see bands of roving Pompadour-And-Guitar Blocs at more protests in the future, such as anti-war and free trade protests? I sure hope so. We need more of that. We need to see Men-And-Women-In-Black Blocs showing up at all protests, something like the Radical Cheerleaders and Infernal Noise Brigade. Not only is it fun for the participants, as well as the media, and observers, it is also pertinent and very serious in nature, really. Johnny Cash had a really serious political message. He understood poverty. He understood prison. He understood the working people. He is a good beacon for protest activity. And he also was really funny. Which is why this bloc has so much potential. Because Johnny Cash, himself, was so funny, intense, political, and honest. The bloc has endless material to work with.
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. -Johnny Cash
(Editor’s note: Southeby’s is located at 1334 York Avenue, NY, NY. It is located one block east of 1st Avenue at 71st street. To take the subway, take 6 train to 68th St. and walk north 3 blocks, and then east to York Ave.)