“Carter won the war, without ever firing a shot.“
“Who is Jimmy Carter?” I asked in a public high school classroom, an ice breaker I’d use for my entire year as a substitute teacher in Marin County and San Francisco County schools.
“A baseball player?”
“Wasn’t he that really bad president?”
Out of the entire year of over a thousand students I might have gotten one or two answers right, that he was a president. But even then they had no further idea about his historical significance until they Googled him on their phones. “Oh, he was a peanut farmer.”
It’s time to reflect on the words of President Jimmy Carter’s 1979 speech “Crisis of Confidence” when you recognize his administration’s work on climate change, peace and human rights carries a story to shine a light on the absolute horror of these last forty years. You can understand today why Democrats and Republicans would work hard to shun President Jimmy Carter. He makes them all look like criminals. And maybe they are.
“Have purpose,” Carter said to the people when he recognized a growing shift in the American psyche – a drive toward materialism. Following two decades of counter culture, creating new boundaries of American identity, feminism, civil rights and environmental ethos, ultimately the 60s generation cashed out under Ronald Reagan’s policies of Reaganomics (trickle down economics) and crushed working class unions, creating today’s billionaire and working poor castes. But, that’s not all. Denis Hayes, Author of the 1976 book Rays of Hope, Transition to a Post Petroleum World, published by the Worldwatch Institute, who also served in the Carter Administration, says “had Carter gotten a second term, we would not be dealing with climate change like we are today. We were already experiencing changes in the 1970s.”
It’s valid to say the 60s generation brought not only Jimmy Hendrix and The Beatles, but after their big talks and fancy parties, they also brought global climate change and the collapse or our American economy, pitting us in disaster for years to come. It’s not a surprise of the millionaire status of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Ringo now does shoe ads for a multibillion dollar corporation.
If Jimmy Carter was a Democrat, why are the Democrats not heralding Carter who tried to stop climate change? The answer is simple. The Democrats grew in line with the Republicans when you recognize the leaders of the Dems herald Reagan, the very president whose policies brought us these economic and environmental policy disasters. Take Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, for example. Ten years ago, Pelosi removed the abolitionist Starr King’s statue in Washington DC to replace it with President Ronald Reagan – a statue to represent the State of California. D-California Governor Newsom created a Ronald Reagan Day to honor Reagan. Several years ago President Ronald Reagan was inducted into the US Labor Hall of Fame despite the fact his crushing of the 1981 National Union Strike led to the collapse of unions across the country. The Democrats have embraced the GOP leader whose policies have ruined not only our country, but arguably the entire planet, yet they contine to point fingers at the GOP.
One has to reflect on that time under Carter whose administration was sabotaged as he boldly stood up to OPEC, the oil giants, with a vision to transform our country into clean energy, likely believing that the people would understand the value and wisdom of such a transformation. Denis Hayes and I discussed in my interview that when you consider who the players are behind OPEC, those with their own military mercenaries around the world doing their dirty oil business bidding, that’s it’s a that wonder Jimmy Carter wasn’t assassinated. The GOP machine under Ronald Reagan came in fast and furious, with enough Hollywood shimmer and glitz to dazzle the country, with the oil giants behind him, leading us into these forty years of wars and exploitation that make The Vietnam War look like small potatoes.
Carter could have become authoritarian, on a Trump like level, to make the energy and environmental changes needed back in the 1970s. Had he done so, we would have avoided 40 years of oil wars and environmental disasters. today we’d be leading a green economy. So, we could blame Carter for our problems today, except for one inconvenient and hard truth – Carter believes in Democracy and when he said “I am not going to do this alone,” he provided the greatest gift to the people of this country to rise and take their own power “as the people”.
Carter’s respect for our American Constitution and the will of the people are the lessons we can learn from Carter today. Most of the students of the public schools believed that Carter is dead today. “No, he’s very much alive,” I answered. If there were ever a time to shine a light on a leader who has walked the talk and preached to humanity the values confidence, grace, peace and humility, both as a President and a Sunday School teacher, it’s President Jimmy Carter.
We have forty years to look back on to witness the dark shadow of greed, wars and exploitation that Carter had to face himself as a leader, and that truth can today give us rise as an entire nation to heed his calling in 1979 “have confidence.” It’s not too late.
Carter won the war, without ever firing a shot.