By Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2010

Q: Cervantes said that those who “sing scare away their woes.”

Cash: The religion I have is music. Even the times I have headaches, when I’m singing, I can’t feel them. My dad used to say that, too, especially near the end of his life. He would be in pain—a lot of pain—and he said the only time when he didn’t feel pain was when he performed and sang.

Q: Talk about your connection to your dad.

Cash: My dad and I had a real meeting of the minds. We loved to talk about music, politics, and art. He loved children. The thing I missed most about my dad when he died was that this person who really gets who I am at the core was gone.

My dad had more compassion than me. He was nonjudgmental. He didn’t care where you stood politically. He just took you as a person on face value. He could love all stripes, and that’s why all stripes claim him. He didn’t judge.

Q: This way of engaging with the world is difficult to achieve.

Cash: Yes. For example, my dad went to the Nixon White House and refused to sing “Welfare Cadillac” (instead performing the anti-war songs “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” and “Man in Black”). He protested the Vietnam War, but he went to perform for the troops with bombs dropping all around him. He had that kind of genius: a true artist’s capacity for holding two opposing thoughts at once while being large enough to encompass all realities.

Being in Vietnam changed him fundamentally. He was devastated when we went into Iraq.

Q: He was very ill at this point.

Cash: He was so fragile. We invaded Iraq in March, and he died in September. And because his health was so fragile, he couldn’t take the controversy of making a public statement against the war. He knew that people were rabid. They attacked me mercilessly after I did the press conference with Musicians United to Win Without War. He knew that he couldn’t tolerate that.

In the two weeks leading up to the invasion, my father was in the hospital. He was very sick. The doctors put him in a medically induced coma. He went to sleep not knowing if we had invaded Iraq. It was the last thought on his mind. When he woke up, I was sitting by his side. He looked at me and reached over to pull the television over to him. He was looking at me like, “Did it happen?” I said, “Dad, it happened.” He went, “No! No!” Can you imagine? This is the first thing he thought of when he woke up from a weeklong coma.

Q: What concerns you today about our politics?

Cash: The thing that scares me most is the shift from serving the people to exercising power and with it, this attendant narcissism. Sarah Palin is a great example of someone that just stirs the pot for the sake of the attention. No vision, no critical thinking, no backup to her statements. Just to incite little riots everywhere and capitalize upon it financially. To me, she is a microcosm of the ultimate cynicism in American politics. As John Adams said, all democracies will eventually self-destruct. We seem to be doing it very quickly.

This is but a small excerpt from the Rosanne Cash interview in the October issue. To read the full article, and the entire October issue, and to subscribe to The Progressive for just $14.97 (a 75% discount!), simply click here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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