I am a big fan of Johnny Cash. I say am and not "was" because even though Johnny's gone, his music lives on.
I met Johnny Cash once, at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. Through a long chain of serendipitous events, I wound up sitting beside Gov. Lester Maddox in the front row of the Fox balcony at a Cash concert, and when the governor went backstage after the concert, he took me with him.
I shook his hand and said, "Hi. I'm Darrell Huckaby" and he shook my hand and said - well, you already know what he said - and we both laughed and that was that.
Every year at Christmas I get up way early, before the rest of the household, so I can enjoy the newspapers and my morning coffee and the solitude of an unspoiled day. For many years, during this quiet time, I would listen to one of Johnny Cash's Christmas albums - I'm old enough to remember albums - and one of the songs was "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."
You all know the song, although it didn't get much airtime this year. The first verse is about the hopeful message of Christmas, the one that promises peace on earth and good will toward men. But then comes that second verse, the one that sounds like it had to have been written - even though I know it wasn't - for Cash's deep, soulful, mournful, rugged Arkansas voice.
"And then I sadly bowed by head; there is no peace on earth, I said - for hate is strong and mocks the song, of peace on earth, good will to man."
I didn't hear Johnny Cash this Christmas, but his voice has been in my head for the past few days - every time I turn on the television, in fact, and see the Israeli bombs raining down on Hamas and the Hamas rockets shrieking into Israel. Even as conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to be improving - the Pentagon announced this week that casualties in both of those countries were at their lowest last year since 2003 - we are reminded that hate is, indeed, strong.
And now we have tanks and large numbers of troops facing off along the Gaza strip and the entire free world is begging for a cease fire. But in the land where folks have been fighting one another since before David took Goliath out with a sling-shot, that isn't likely to happen.
So instead of a kinder, gentler world in 2009 it looks like we will live in a world where turmoil and strife is on the rise instead of the decline - and with the volatile situation between India and Pakistan and our own continuing fight against radical Muslim terrorists, well, the world is a scary place, indeed.
It kind of makes all the furor over who won what college football bowl game seem a little bit trifling, doesn't it?
And the heck of it all is that there is really nothing we can do about all the turmoil - and I am speaking now of you and me, the man on the street, John Q. Public. We have elected our leaders, for better or for worse, and they may or may not be able to have an impact - but the rest of us? What can we do?
There are those who would say that we could pray for world peace, but would that really do any good? Let's face it, every beauty pageant contestant since the first bathing-suit clad honey walked down the first runway in Atlantic City has promised to promote world peace and look where that has gotten us. Even the Bible promises that there will always be wars and rumors of war, so what good would it do if an entire nation woke up every day and prayed for peace in places that most of us have never been to and many of us couldn't even find on a map?
Besides, what God would we pray to? There are so many differences of opinion about religion these days, and religious strife is the cause of a lot of the wars going on anyway. So again, what good would it do for a few million people in our country to wake up every morning and pray for peace?
Obviously, I don't know the answer to my own hypothetical question. I don't know what good it would do - primarily because I don't think it has ever been done - not in my lifetime. So I have an even better question. What could it hurt?
I do know the answer to that question. It couldn't hurt a thing.
There is a final stanza to my favorite Johnny Cash Christmas song that promises "God is not dead nor does he sleep." It goes on to suggest that "the wrong will fail, the right prevail." I'm going with that part of the song in 2009 and I am going to try and help it along. I will never win a beauty contest, but I am still going to pray for peace on earth, good will to man in 2009. Y'all feel free to join me.
Pass it on.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.