Sarah Vowell's journal entry for January 5 in "Radio On: A Listener's Diary"
...Yesterday, Portland made me nervous, and the radio didn't help...
I tuned in an AM sermon hosted by a singsongy preacher with an ironic bent.
"Why, if man is basically good..." he begins the next thirty-three sentences:
"Why, if man is basically good..." did a man in the choir get mugged last night, did a woman he knows get raped, did thieves break in and steal a family's belongings, did he hear on the news that two teenagers killed their parents, and so on. Man is basically evil, he cries, that's why. He didn't convince me, but Johnny Cash tried.
This morning before everyone else woke up, I went through
my friend Chris's records and played a really rise-and-shine, high-voltage album by sunshine chanteuse Nico before I switched to the Man in Black's last effort, American Recordings. A dreary little ballad, by Mr. Pure Pop for Now People, Nick Lowe,
called “The Beast in Me” stopped me cold.
Its slow; though it's not the tempo but rather Cash's bleak and painful voice that forced me to face my own ugliness. "God help the beast in me," he moans.
That Portland preacher bought a ticket on the wrong guilt trip, relying on examples of commandments broken, of killing and headline crime. By drilling his congregation with dramatic case histories, he neglects the smaller, infinitely more suitable acts against goodness and decency. Most likely, his average listener had never mugged another pedestrian, shot her husband, or robbed from the poor, but what if, like the beast in me, she had just abandoned her best friend in a time of crisis to ward off her own paranoia by getting drunk alone? -link, p. 11-12
Related Johnny Cash posts: