McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 31, 2014

Ramblin' round

We need Johnny Cash

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — We need Johnny Cash.

With the nation torn between left and right, liberal and conservative, right and wrong — however one may define those terms — Cash, in his lifetime, had been the one to walk the line.

The nation’s current mood isn’t the only time such divisions have been felt. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the nation also experienced those now familiar fault lines.

Somehow, Cash stood as a beacon of integrity to all sides.

Prisoners — and prison guards —loved his music, judging by the cheers heard on his “live” albums such as “Johnny Cash At Folsum Prison.”

He appealed to long-haired members of the counter culture as well as to the crew-cut guy in the hard hat.

Both liberals and conservatives claimed him for their own.

Cash appealed to the traditional Christian and well as to the traditional sinner.

Environmentalists and wildcat oil drillers both embraced the Man in Black.

Why? Not because Cash straddled the fence. I think it resulted from his penchant for looking at different sides of an issue, kind of like holding a prism in the sunshine. Turn it this way and one light will be reflected. Turn it that way and see another.

I remember when some environmentalists criticized Cash after he did a television commercial for an oil company.

Cash’s response had been along the lines of how he supports many environmental issues. After all, he had grown up picking cotton and doing other outdoor work on his family’s rural land in Arkansas.

On the other hand, if his son became sick, Cash said, he wanted to be able to climb into a pickup truck and rush him to the hospital.

That pretty much ended the debate.

If only our political leaders would take a lesson from Cash and use a common sense approach to the issues that divide our nation and state today. After all, the title of one of Cash’s songs from the era had been “What is Truth?”

Instead of following a stubborn ideology, consider the other point of view.

We can only hope.

Come back, Cash.

We need you.

Contact James Beaty at