Johnny Cash's Middle Finger

That photo of Johnny Cash giving the middle finger is interesting 

It’s a good photo because it is interesting 

But I don’t get the sense that the photo enjoys wide circulation for the right reasons 

Johnny Cash‘s middle finger is misconstrued as a heroic gesture 

The photo is practically celebrated 


You want to be on that team 

With Johnny Cash doing the dirty work 

The desperate action of an exploited man 

Flexing as such, badass 

The middle finger, yours perhaps, we get it 

Like an identity politic 

Project onto it what have you 

The middle finger 

An identity politic that is neither principled or productive 

The middle finger 

The sharpest tool in the road rage tool kit 

The devolution of good sportsmanship 

A coded endearment towards an acceptance of continued dysfunction 

Adults behaving badly through the ages 

Just about everyone today likes the image of Johnny Cash giving the middle finger 

But almost no one knows what it means 

I didn’t know what it meant until I found out 

The photo was taken by Jim Marshall during a performance at Folsom Prison 

Johnny Cash was asked to take a picture for the Warden 

You can buy a variety of merchandise with this image on it 

You can find it on sweatshirts and mugs along Music Row in Nashville 

It’s possible that Johnny Cash’s middle finger is more recognizable in some circles than the man himself 

We romanticize and sensationalize prison, but it’s a business and a shit business at that 

Lucrative for stakeholders, don’t get me wrong 

But it’s wrong to be a stakeholder in a prison 

And everyone likes to be right 

A man giving the middle finger would seem to be free  

But the United States holds a higher percentage of its population in prison than anywhere else in the civilized world 

This free country holding 20% of the world’s prisoners today 

The trend has only gotten worse since Johnny Cash‘s middle finger 

Johnny Cash wasn’t a phony person 

He recognized the situation 

I hope his estate makes money off the crass exploitation of his middle finger 

But it was an ineffectual protest 

A small gesture at that 

An interesting image none-the-less