John Mellencamp Speaks For Alabama (John Archibald)

John Mellencamp speaks for Alabama (John Archibald)
By John Archibald  -

For a ruling, go to ... John Mellencamp.

That's what U.S. District Judge David Procter did last week. In an opinion in a lawsuit involving Childersburg and a private probation company, Proctor used his whole first page to write of wrongs in ... song.

"'I fight authority/Authority always wins,'" the judge wrote. "Throughout his hit-making career, John Mellencamp (a.k.a., Johnny Cougar, John Cougar, and John Cougar Mellencamp) has struck a chord with the American public, garnering acclaim for his revealing insights on everyday life.

It was brilliant.

The only question is why we haven't been using Mellencampian wisdom to solve Alabama's problems for decades. I've got questions. John Mellencamp has answers.

Me: That whole fighting authority bit sounds good. But these days, authority seems to take itself pretty seriously. The NSA hears us, and if you say the wrong stuff in the wrong place you're a terrorist. Isn't it safer to take it?

JM: You gotta stand for something/or you're gonna fall for anything.

Me: It is hard to know where to stand. We are so divided. Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, black and white, Methodists and ... Baptists.

JM: Everybody has got the choice/Between hot dogs and hamburgers/Every one of us has got to choose/Between right and wrong/And givin' up or holdin' on.

Me: But that seems to pit us against each other. If it's our way or the highway, how do we find common ground?

JM: I'm an American, I'm an American/I respect you and your point of view/I'm an American, I'm an American/And I wish you good luck with whatever you do.

Me: Seems simple when you put it like that. But we have a lot of troubles out there these days. The economy is still sluggish, budgets are busted, a lot of people are still out of work, and taxpayers are running out of patience with the poor.

JM: It's hard times for an honest man/Very very very hard times.

Me: They need to get of their keisters and find a job, right?

JM: When you take away a man's dignity he can't work his fields and cows/There'll be blood on the scarecrow/Blood on the plow.

Me: You sound like you feel for these people.

JM: So many lonely people/Damn those broken dreams.

Me: Still, only 20 percent show up to vote in city elections. Is that apathy, or would people simply rather look at cats on Reddit?

JM: The simple minded/And the uninformed/Can be easily led astray/And those that cannot connect the dots/Hey look the other way

Me: There has been talk in some circles that we need to control what our young people are reading. If they read different stuff, they might turn into different people.

JM: Let it rock, let it roll/Let the Bible Belt come and save my soul.

Me: Birmingham is dealing with its own problems, trying to stem population loss, restoring a sense of pride and facing the demons of the past. A lot of good people simply left. What are we to do?

JM: When Jesus left Birmingham/He left it there for you and me.

Me: Hmm. Interesting. So it's on us, now?

JM: Close enough for rock'n'roll.

Me: One thing that does seem to get people upset is the fight that has been manufactured between big business and the environment. When are we going to see that protecting the environment is good for everybody, including those who want, and provide jobs?

JM: When paradise is no longer fit for you to live in/And adolescent dreams are gone.

Me: Why is that so hard to see?

JM: We keep no check/On our appetite/So the green fields turn to brown/Like paper in fire

Me: But our leaders – particularly the Public Service Commission -- have been pretty successful making people believe there's a natural conflict between jobs and the earth.

JM: Mama why do I always fall for the crazy ones?

Me: But aren't they just doing the jobs they were elected to do?

JM: Hey calling it your job ol' hoss sure don't make it right/But if you want me to I'll say a prayer for your soul tonight.

Me: What advice do you have for the children of Alabama?

JM: You are young and you are the future/So suck it up and tough it out/And be the best you can.

Me: So we just beat our heads against a wall? Seems hard.

JM: Between a laugh and a tear/Smile in the mirror as you walk by/That's as good as it can get for us/And there ain't no reason to stop tryin'.

Me: Sounds like MLK in a way. Or To Kill a Mockingbird.

JM: Oh yeah, life goes on/Long after the thrill of livin' is gone.