Cash wrote Man in Black in 1971. It was written as a protest against racism, the shabby treatment of the poor, the neglect of prisoners, and the condemnation of drug addicts. Cash was also protesting what he considered the unjust war in Vietnam and what he considered to be the needless cost in resources and lives that were being spent to continue it. In the song, Cash says that he wears black so that he can stand in front of the oppressed and downtrodden and use his position of relative power to do what he can to intervene on their behalf. To a certain extent, I think the popular conception of Johnny Cash has forgotten his zealous passion for the cause of social justice, and I think that this lapse of memory does him a disservice.
I suspect that Cash would be disappointed to learn that forty-five years after he wrote Man in Black, the United States elected a President and a Congress that are the antithesis of everything he stood for. He would be shocked to learn that the President-elect ran on explicitly racist and xenophobic campaign promises. He would be disappointed to learn that the current crop of Republicans holding Congress have a legislative agenda that is geared towards eliminating the protections for those who are less well off, and are dead set on screwing over veterans while they are at it. Cash would be appalled by the rise of private prisons and the needlessly harsh prison sentences imposed upon people with chemical dependency. He would say, quite clearly, that despite forty-five years of effort, we still need a man in black.
I agree with Cash. This is a time when it falls upon those who are not directly in the line of fire of the upcoming administration to step forward and do their part to protect those upon whom Trump and his cronies would inflict harm. In this new year, it is not enough to rely upon some new Cash to step up, all of us who are able must all step up and take on the coming storm, because there are others who won't be able to survive it without help.
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