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October 06, 2007
John Mellencamp needs this "Jena" song in his dumb ass I got a lot of love for John Mellencamp. His prime era music means a lot to me personally, and I'll take him head to head with Springsteen, to get the closest obvious point of comparison. He's our top southern Indiana hometown Hoosier hero. Plus, he's clearly the most deserving candidate in this year's list of Hall of Fame nominees.
Yet I find myself badly wanting to bring the pimp hand down on the Little Bastard. See, in his old age as his creative juices wane, he's taken a sideline in slandering his homeboys. He just seems to love painting us as being Klan, as in the ridiculous song "Jim Crow" from his 2007 Freedom's Road album.
Look what Jim Crow's done and gone Went and changed his name Don't know what he's going by these days But he's still actin' the same
Well, no. That's just a dumb slander. Jim Crow's dead and gone. The Klan has long since quit hanging black men as strange fruit. Black folk massacring each other is now a far worse problem in reality than Klan lynchings ever were, just by the numbers.
But now Mellencamp's upping the slander ante with the new song "Jena." He recorded this for an upcoming album, but has already put out a video for this news-current topical song. This is a more specific slander and against a more specific target: the good residents of Jena, LA. Here is Mellencamp's lyric:
Jena Written by John Mellencamp
An all white jury hides the executioner's face See how we are, me and you? Everyone here needs to know their place Let's keep this blackbird hidden in the flue
Oh oh oh Jena Oh oh oh Jena Oh oh oh Jena Take your nooses down
So what becomes of boys that cannot think straight Particularly those with paper bag skin Yes sir, no sir we'll wipe that smile right off your face We've got our rules here and you must fit in
Oh oh oh Jena Oh oh oh Jena Oh oh oh Jena Take your nooses down
Some day some way sanity will prevail But who knows when that day might come A shot in the dark, well it just might find its way To the hearts of those that hold the keys to kingdom come
Oh oh oh Jena Oh oh oh Jena Oh oh oh Jena Take those nooses down
Oh oh hey Jena Oh oh oh Jena Oh oh oh Jena Take your nooses down Take those nooses all down
That's just so wrong and hateful and dishonest on so many counts. But let's start with the first line. "An all white jury hides the executioner's face" For one thing, there's no "executioner's face," as there has been no one even facing a potential capital charge. So that's bogus right there.
Then there's the "all white jury" business. One in fact violent, guilty black guy got an all white jury. Mellencamp clearly implies a charge of corruption in that, that it's a racist town setting up Klan justice. But the town is something like 85% white to begin with, so there are some odds of such a thing. Someone might double check, but it's my understanding that there were several black folk whose names came up in the jury pool for this case - but none of them actually showed up at the courthouse. One might wish to be a little more respectful of facts when smearing a whole town like this.
Then there's the main point of the chorus, "oh Jena Take your nooses down." The unmistakable point of this is to smear the whole town as a Klan hotbed. In fact, a couple of idiot high school boys hung a couple of nooses off of one tree. Jena didn't need Johnny Cougar to tell them this was bad. They of course immediately took those nooses down, and punished the young fools who put them there.
One might reasonably argue that those boys deserved worse punishment than they got. They were suspended from school, but not criminally prosecuted. But then, they hadn't actually committed any act of violence. They were merely assholes, but arguably not really quite criminal. Perhaps they deserved worse punishment, but it's not like anybody at all was condoning their idiocy.
Whereas the black kids who got prosecuted were violent. They beat a (white) guy into a concussion. Even if the boy had said hateful things to them, they don't get to just beat someone into a bloody pulp. One could argue that prosecutors were laying the charges on a little thick to characterize the act as attempted murder.
But still, these guys were clearly in fact guilty of some pretty serious violence. This is not To Kill a Mockingbird. None of these guys is Tom Robinson. So don't be carrying on like these poor gentle lambs were railroaded just because they're black. "Everyone here needs to know their place." So then just because they're black, they're not allowed to beat hell out of white folk, and that's racism. Is that the argument that Mellencamp wishes to make?
On his website, Mellencamp said "The song is not written as an indictment of the people of Jena but, rather, as a condemnation of racism." Well bullshit, ya Little Bastard. Those words are clearly painting a picture of a specific town in the grip of Klandom, like the folks of Jena, LA have "all those nooses" around needing took down. The "Jim Crow" song was just a generalized slander against white southerners or perhaps even against all white folk. The hatefulness was so broad as to be defused. But this is a much more specific, more specifically wrong, and more specifically hurtful slander against this handful of people in this one little small town.
Also, I particularly un-appreciate the cheesy dishonesty of "See how we are, me and you?" This is such a cheap having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too move. He wants to claim credit for humility or some such by nominally including himself in the accusation. But of course, he doesn't really mean to be held in judgment as a racist. After all, he's the one who's writing this song to blow the whistle. What a brave cracker he is!
Or, since he's indicting himself along with all us other rednecks, perhaps these poor innocent black guys could come up and beat Mellencamp into the hospital. I'm sure he'd make sure these poor innocent souls weren't prosecuted, cause that'd be racist.
While I'm giving Mellencamp the smackdown he deserves, I definitely want to get in a couple of licks for his participation in the Janet Reno sponsored Song of America project. I will hold that chosen association against him and everyone who would in such manner willingly associate themselves with this truly wicked person. She's worse in the practice than any evil guy from the Nixon administration. By aligning himself with the very real evil of Janet Reno, Mellencamp assumes a couple of drops of the blood of the children she had massacred at Waco.
Post Script: Here are some notes from a LOCAL REPORTER that make this Mellencamp song and the national outcry look even far stupider and more malicious than I had thought when writing this original story. For starters, it appears that the idiot white teenagers who hung those stupid nooses had no understanding of the history of lynching and strange fruit, and indeed have black friends. Word is that they were just intending to tease their buddies on the rodeo team.
But I'm sure this won't cause Mellencamp or most national media outlets from redacting any of their slanders. It's just too good a story for their little world views.