Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production

Vol.96.3: TWO JIMMYS

V096-03_twojimmys

In Tijuana, Mexico, June 1990

During my hiatus from DCJ as my websites have been undergoing an updating and facelift I actually considered whether I wanted to return to writing essays at all. A lot of the stuff I write is about politics and about the social and economic issues of the day both in the US and abroad. And if the current political season was telling me anything, it was that a lot of the political culture is the same old stuff, the same old problems, the same types of personalities, the same stupidity. Did I really want to go on writing about the likes of Jeff Bush, Rubio, Christie, Walker, Fiorina, and buffoons like Donald Trump? Did I really want to spend my time trying to get a new angle on the debate over abortion rights, Social Security, immigration, that cops murdering unarmed black people demonstrates that racism resides deep in the marrow of American culture, that our love affair with capitalism is siphoning the wealth and economic capacity of our country into the wallets of billionaires, that our inability to control our fetish over firearms has turned the country into an almost daily OK Corral shootout, that we have more people in prison then any other country, that we are the biggest arms merchants in the world and can’t seem to recognize the fact that we are completely sucked in by the Pentagon and defense contractors, that since 9/11, we have allowed ourselves to be terrified to the point where we are dismantling our own civil liberties and making a mockery of our Constitution? I could go on, but I’ve already written sometimes at considerable length about these subjects, and they just don’t seem to go away or change, although that is not an expectation I had from my rather feeble voice in the wilderness.

But a friend of mine who maintained a quite popular website in Hong Kong for many years had decided it was time to move on, that he had said pretty much what he had to say. Was I feeling burned out, too, or coming to an inevitable cynicism, or just the weariness that comes with age? I could just sit back and write a nice novel on a pleasant subject that didn’t have anything to do with all this chaos and craziness, and pop out a new title every nine months or so with the maternal regularity of Mrs. Duggar. It’s a tempting prospect. I wouldn’t be taking up golf, fishing, woodworking, but I would have a little more time to spend at the piano each day, and maybe I could expand my workouts to try to retain some degree of flexibility in these creaky old bones. “Nothing is forever” my late, and dear old friend and movie director, Dennis Sanders used to say, and maybe that should apply to Dragon City Journal. Heck, I haven’t even been overwhelmed with emails from my readers asking “where the hell is your next posting?”

There was a good chance that I, too, was going to move on and close down my journal. And then a few mornings ago I heard an announcement on NPR. Former President Jimmy Carter made public that he was suffering from cancer, but was receiving treatment and continuing with his work with the Carter Center, Habitat for Humanity, and was even continuing to do his Sunday Bible study classes with children at his church.   He recently published another book. He is 90 years old and, despite having an extremely valid excuse, he’s not taking himself out of the game.

Jimmy Carter holds a special place with me. He had to deal with the post Vietnam war recessions of the ‘70s and then the Iran hostage crisis over which he was stabbed in the back the Reagan cabal. Since losing to Reagan the political right wing of this country has conducted a relentless and unfair character assassination of Jimmy Carter. Yet, in all the years since the Reagan administration’s systematic destruction of the American economy, bloating of the defense budget, and criminal violation of the Constitution in the Iran/Contra affair, Carter has worked tirelessly at both the domestic and international levels to restore a democratic, humanitarian and irenic reputation to this country. If Jimmy is going to hang in there at age 90, maybe I should try for a little bit longer.

Twenty-five years ago, When I was producing my KPBS-FM series Metropolitan Journal, I took myself down to Tijuana, Mexico, where Jimmy Carter was doing the work of a common labor for a Habitat for Humanity  project building sweat-equity homes for poor Mexican families. I wasn’t sure that my KPBS public broadcasting credentials would be able to get me past the Secret Service protection of the former President, only to be surprised that when he took off his work gloves and came to greet me this genial, humble former president told me that all the radios in his home we’re set to NPR. The Carter’s, – – Rosalin was doing her a bit caring for children in the nursery while their mothers worked on their homes – – we’re spending the week living in a tent, just like everybody else. Jimmy was spending a full day drywalling and slathering stucco. It was beyond my capacity to imagine Ronnie and Nancy in a similar context.

  Listen to the program.

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©2015, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 8.25.2015)

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