I LOVED Jimmy Carter. In 1976. LOVED him. I played him at school during the mock elections. I gave the speech for him on the PA system and I like to think that it helped him win the school’s mock election. Why did I love him? Easy…I’d met him.
My father was a part of the advertising team that took James Earl on his book tour, marketing his book, “Why Not the Best?”. In Atlanta my mother and I met the team there, went to a book signing, and I met the man. In person. Shook his hand. Got my autographed book. That’s when I decided I was a Jimmy Carter fan, and that I liked politics.
Four years later I was disenchanted with politics in general and Jimmy Carter, specifically. I was not going to go into politics. Clearly who you voted for couldn’t really make real change. So, what did it matter?
So, for decades I didn’t really pay attention to politics. All politicians, presidents kinda looked the same. Sounded the same. Behaved the same. And then came “W.” The dumb Bush. The man who could embarrass a whole country in a minute flat…and did so at every opportunity. He got my attention. I couldn’t stand him. He was a ridiculous example of political inbreeding, I thought. But, still, I figured the US would right itself. We could only go up. And up we did.
We elected the first African American President. A black man held the highest office in the country for 8 years. (#IMissObama!) And again, I didn’t worry about politics. We were going to be fine.
The USA was figuring it out. Staying on the right side of history. Whew. And then we were even on the cusp of electing the first woman President. A woman who was the most qualified candidate in the history of the office. We were watching history being made again…the good kind of history.
And then…it didn’t happen. What was the effect? I care about politics again.
But why? A friend of mine, after the election when a “celebrity” “businessman” idiot was elected, said “I think you’re taking this election too seriously.” And it made me think.
How do you respond to that? There is a huge percentage of Americans who think this was just the #sameoldsameold in elections. They are using freedoms that those who were elected into office now want to suppress or take away outright. But I’m taking it too seriously.
I have 2 daughters. Upside – they are white–won’t have to deal with THAT prejudice. Downside–they have vaginas–all sorts of battles coming to make sure they can make their own decisions about their own bodies. Battles I thought were won. I thought we could spend energy on #blacklivesmatter—get right with that.
So I concluded: I, we, have to take politics seriously. It effects our daily lives. Seriously. Nothing in this country changed without righteous anger, protest and persistence. Slavery abolished, women voting, desegregation, marriage equality…it all happened through pushing back and pain.
The women who voted for our current president were able to do so because women a hundred years ago marched and fought and suffered physically and mentally so that they had the right. (There is an irony there, don’t you know.) So, it will be in the foreseeable future. Loins girded.
This is where my mind is these days. But, I’m not alone. There are more of us “taking it seriously”…who care what this country becomes. There is hope. I am hopeful.
As for President James Earl Carter? Still love him. But now I love him for the RIGHT reasons. He’s the greatest FORMER President this country has seen…so far. And I met him.