We Stand At The Crossroads

September 11th, 2020

Robert Johnson

(published in The Daily Memphian)

(photo: Robert Johnson, one of only two verified photos of him. There are no verified photos of the devil.)


“I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above ‘have mercy, now save poor Bob, if you please’”

                              – From Cross Road Blues, Robert Johnson, 1936

A couple of years ago, a couple of months before the midterm elections, I channeled Robert Johnson in a column.

He’s back.

Depending on who you ask, blues legend Robert Johnson is buried in three places in the Delta, and died at 27 in 1938 of poisoning or of syphilis, or sometime later since people claim to have seen him in Memphis in 1941.

His legend includes a deal with the devil in a graveyard or at a crossroads in Clarksdale, or Rosedale, or Beulah, or even here. The devil taught him to play the guitar like no one before him, and in return Johnson sold his soul.

What is undisputed is his genius with a guitar, his magnetism in front of an audience, and his lasting influence from the few recordings he made. He was inducted in the first class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The deal with the devil explained how somebody could appear suddenly and demand attention in a crowded field of endeavor and rise to command that field in record time. I think it also explains how Johnson devotees like the Rolling Stones are still here … take a look at Keith Richards … but I digress.

Just a few years ago, our president was a reality show host with a signature dyed blond combover, six bankruptcies under his considerable belt, two divorces to his credit, and confirmed rolls in the hay with a porn star and an affair with a Playboy model while married to his current wife … and that’s just what we know about.

More presidential advisors and associates have pleaded guilty and/or gone to jail and/or been pardoned than any time in history except for Nixon. Difference is Nixon is done. The Trump perp walks are far from over.

He tweets his presidency like a fourth grader in a playground fight, lies like a cheap shag rug, can’t walk past a mirror, and has managed to isolate America while alienating the entire world except for his bromances with Vlad and Bibi.

For their advancement at ours and the world’s expense, he’s been played like Robert Johnson’s guitar by everybody from the aforementioned Putin and Netanyahu to Turkey’s Erdo─čan and Fox’s Hannity. 

If you’re still reading, and some of you aren’t, you probably think I’m accusing Trump of making a deal with the devil, but I’m not talking about him.

I’m talking to you. All of you.

Yes, the economy was growing before the plague and unemployment was at record lows. The left would say those things were already in the mix before this presidency, wage growth was stagnant, and COVID-19 has exposed the administration’s weaknesses. The right would say we’re better off than we would be with Clinton, that COVID-19 is largely an invention of the left and the media, and that Trump is just being Trump, bless his heart.

There is no position, no honest evaluation that allows four more years in a hell we created.

There is no excuse for what we’re becoming. There is no rationalization for the reprehensible behavior of this administration and everyone who enables it. There is no merit in any argument that would allow the moral character of this country to continue to be reshaped in the image of a man void of moral character.

There is no greater good in a Senate majority that takes its direction from, at worst, a sociopath, and, at best, a joke in bad taste.

We stand at a crossroads in November. The answer is not the road to the far left or to the far right. The answer is right there in the middle, where we can see all directions and best determine the way forward, where we can safely and respectfully return after going our separate ways.

The devil is not Trump.

The devil is in us and our soul is at risk.

I’m a Memphian, and my country must vote its conscience in November.

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