Revisiting “the Man in Black”

Posted: December 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Many, many times I have found myself frustrated at the way foreign policy stories are easily forgotten. Remember the post-election violence in Kenya in 2006? When was the last time you read a news story about Kenya. Or the violence in Nepal? What about that? Are these locations only interesting when there is atrocious violence occurring?

What does that say about us?

In the West I think we tend to forget these places even exist after they fall from the headlines. How soon will it be before we forget about Libya or Tunisia. How about the Ivory Coast? It has been roughly one year since the post-election violence there and how many people know what has been happening in the country that once had us riveted?

Perhaps what is needed is something similar to the idea put forth by Johnny Cash in “the Man in Black.”

Here are a few verses:

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

Perhaps most relevant to this particular project are the lines:

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

Johnny Cash wore black as a symbolic reminder. This project however seeks to be more than symbolic. It will attempt to be a constant reminder of the fact that just because locations fall from the headlines does not mean that they cease to exist.

Newspapers, cable news channels, and news websites need to focus on new and exciting stories to attract viewers and to sell papers.  That is the nature of the society we live in, but don’t we also have a global civic responsibility to follow stories not only because they are interesting but because they are important?

Each week, Forgotten Stories FPI (Foreign Policy Initiative) will provide information about one of these stories much like a man in black standing in front of the crowd.


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