By Jay Jamison
Blow up your TV throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find Jesus on your own
I know almost nothing about popular culture, and I have friends and family who will attest to that. However, I did hear John Prine sing these lyrics at a benefit concert in Nashville many years ago, and I remembered them. I find only one problem with the sentiment offered in the lyrics above: Don’t throw away your paper, especially the one you are reading now. Other than that, I’m OK with the lyric, which is a roundabout way of saying there’s a problem with the TV.
Several years ago, I wrote about driving on North Diamond Street in Jacksonville after a snowstorm. A car had a rear-wheel stuck in the ditch and needed a push to get out. Men were gathered ready to give it a shove, and I joined them. I didn’t know any of the men involved and I didn’t know the driver of the car. No one was giving orders, yet we all acted as a team, pushing the car with wheels spinning and snow flying, out onto the plowed center of the street. It only took a minute or two, but we successfully got the guy on his way.
This is not an exceptional story. The men pushing the car included one Hispanic man and an African American. I was not aware of this diversity angle at the moment when we all put our backs into it, and I don’t think anyone else did either. There was a job to be done and together we did it. I haven’t seen those guys since. What we did was the normal thing to do, and when it was over, we congratulated each other about our accomplishment, and then got into our individual cars and drove away.
Glen Reynolds wrote a column for the July 22 edition of USA Today, describing a horrible fatal accident on an interstate highway recently. Traffic began to back up because a pickup had crossed the median and hit another car head-on traveling the other way. He wrote about numerous strangers jumping out of their cars, rushing to the scene with first aid kits and anything that may be of use in an emergency. No one gave them orders to do anything; they just acted. Reynolds’ observation in the aftermath of the crash was basically the same as mine during the snowstorm. Reynolds wrote, “So, I had a very ordinary experience, but one that seemed extraordinary in its own way. One of the things we’re constantly told is that basic decency is gone in America. But once you’re outside of the media/political bubble, most people seem to be awfully decent, and if anything, they seem to behave better when the going gets tough.”
Which takes me back to John Prine’s lyric … I wouldn’t encourage readers to blow up their TVs, but I believe Prine’s lyric is asking everyone to turn the set off, or at least ignore much of what is broadcast … and I’d add social media to the list of things to metaphorically “blow up.” In the real world of actual Americans working together, without prompts from TV and media experts, we tend to get along pretty well, especially when the chips are down.