Comment Of The Day: “Racist Political Correctness, Casting Ethics, Double Standards, And The Rock”

Yes, this comment has little to do with ethics, but it’s so interesting as a supplement to the main post that it deserves greater circulation.

Here is Pennagain’s fascinating Comment of the Day on the weekend’s post, Racist Political Correctness, Casting Ethics, Double Standards, And The Rock:

I knew there were at least two versions of the song, “The Ballad of John Henry,” but I’ve so far found dozens more online, most of them having umpteen verses, and a work-song rhythm – the most basic of which my 7-year-old self stomped in that driving stop-rhythm around the classroom (chanting?), with that hammer-driving oomph! at the end of each line, to lyrics like “gonna die with the hammer in mah han’, Lord, Lord”.

For what it’s worth, a “real” John Henry is pretty well authenticated in at least one version of the story, ending fatally at the C&O’s Big Bend Tunnel in Talcott, West Virginia.

From KPBS’ “The African-American Railroad Experience”, built on Theodore Kornweibel’s photographic history: The entire southern railroad network built during the slavery era was built almost exclusively by slaves. Some of the railroads owned slaves, other hired or rented from slave owners [later from contracted freedmen or convict work-gangs]. And. . . women as well as men were actually involved in the hard, dangerous, brutal work. … several of the song versions finish with John Henry telling his wife to pick up the hammer and continue the job.

Negative evidence of Henry’s race would be that none of the many, many verses of the songs (recorded by 38 singers besides Ives) nor folk references – negro dialect aside (arguably stretched to “Suthun,”) – refer to that figure as being other than black. And as a black man, and a real, live “Everyman” working-man’s hero, he is proudly and fiercely claimed by South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky . . . and Jamaica.

Of particular interest are “the rebel verses,” 12 challenging the “Cap’n of the Sexion Line” to quit beating him, and 11 more on “complaints” detailing the poor working conditions of the steeldrivers.

and my favorite: Johnny Cash’s patter-song-bio of John Henry, all 8 1/2 minutes of it:


22 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Racist Political Correctness, Casting Ethics, Double Standards, And The Rock”

  1. Great job Pennagain.

    It might interest you that there is a recording of Don Lemon singing that song on YouTube. I couldn’t watch the whole thing and had to turn it off…

    Look it up. He accompanies it on a lute which, to me anyways, does not seem fitting. But to each his own in our vibrant democracy…

    There is another theory which is gaining ground: that it was not Big John but Big Johanna that inspired the original song, lost in the mistiness of time. A giant 7′ lesbian with a moustache or so they are saying.

    But I don’t know if I believe that….

    • But to each his own in our vibrant democracy…

      Wait… you have democracy in Columbia? Rule of law and everything?

      Who knew?

      I may have to add that as a paradise to flee to, if progressives complete their attempted coup here in the states…

      Do you grant welfare to political refugees? What if I can cook?

                • Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit.

                  This might interest you.

                  An odd fact:

                  Whether one abhors or applauds this 63-year track record of judicial activism, it remains a genuinely remarkable achievement. (And I confess, in some areas, especially free speech, privacy, and racial equality, I have quietly favored the court’s activism despite its sometimes-strained interpretations of the Constitution.) The Court’s success in re-making America in so many ways, over such a relatively short period of time, is staggering especially when one considers the math. The math is thus: from 1954 to 2017, the Republicans held the White House for 35 years and Democrats only 28 years. Far more astounding, during this same time period Democratic presidents appointed only eight Supreme Court justices, while Republican presidents appointed 18 Supreme Court justices, more than twice as many justices as Democrats! And yet, and yet… despite all these Republican-appointed justices, the liberal tide continues, albeit sometimes slowed and narrowed by a conservative tilt on some issues now and then.

                  The more that one looks into things — follows the *causal chain* — the more strange and confusing things get.

                  • This is what interests me:

                    The Court’s success in re-making America in so many ways, over such a relatively short period of time

                    Was it ‘the Court’ that re-made America? How did it happen that there was such an accelerated period of change? If it is true that this process began, but that usually there are reversals and turn-arounds, does it stand to reason that we are now entering a time where a ‘turning back’ is occurring? Or, is there really no turning back?

                    All over the world there is resistance to Hyper-Liberalism. Why? What stands behind it? who stands behind it? Given the opportunity what would it create?

                    How very odd — but par-for-the-course — that the counter-current to Hyper Liberalism is described like this:

                    I work, if you will, in the ambiguous territory between fascist thought and hyper-liberal thinking. It really — and fairly — has to be described in this way.

                    Cultural literacy should include understanding the fascist writers. What this means is those who advocate for solid, structured values. If you look into it, they are usually proto-fascist. The Interwar Period is now, in our present, being repeated. Or is it ‘replayed’?

                    What is ‘conservatism’? what is ‘liberalism’? What accelerates cultural change? What conserves solid, structured values?

                    It is in that area that the conflict is really to be found (IMHO). The reason I confuse people (on of them anyway) is because I do not shy away from all the things we have been told we *must* shy away from. But you can only gain real knowledge if you really know the structure and content of that thought that you oppose (or favor).

                    • And what about the ideas expressed here? How can we even talk about this if we cannot *see* it and objectify it? And if we do that, how shall we react when we consider that the people who inform us, and in this sense the people who mold us and control us, are often people we never see? The ‘structures of soft power’ — how can we even talk about them?

  2. Thanks for the honor, Mr. Marshall.
    I was going to do that in black dialect – it was screaming out for it – but just in case you still had a progressive friend or two left, I will just give them a boost for their diversity stats: the southern rails may have been hammered out by black men (and … the other sex: of course, there was no such thing as homosexuality then!!) and everyone knows how the Chinese labored heroically on the transcontinental railway, but the totally unsung hammer-drivers of the western rail routes to the south – the ones that still carry the bulk of the country’s produce (and that small proportion of it that comes out of Texas) Eastward – were primarily Latino and Navajo.

    There now! Another college course or two in the making.

    And I thought I was the one who usually went off on a side-line (that’s my last railroad allusion) . . . .

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