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Tonight, it was my turn to play the role of Some Freak of the Subway.

Laughing convulsively, wiping away tears, I found myself driven to such a state (during my evening commute on the BART between San Francisco and Oakland) from reading the current Op Ed piece in The Onion, satirically attributed to Jimmy Carter, and titled I Got What America Needs Right Here.

The link is below, and I am compelled to offer fair warning that—for those completely unfamiliar with The Onion—the language is extremely coarse. Those with sensibilities not well matched for such content as this are advised accordingly.  Hell, I’ve been reading The Onion for years, and I was jarred. It’s absolutely not to everyone’s liking, and if my admission that I couldn’t contain myself paints me in a dark light, I’ll own that.

Advisories now firmly established, you may, if you wish, find the article here:

Now, ersatz Jimmy takes a far dimmer view of our electoral prospects than I (and, I trust, you) do. And, further, precisely as I cannot imagine President Carter even thinking in such language let alone using it aloud or in writing, I would also hope that his actual outlook on our slate of candidates is sunnier than depicted.

That said, and while I won’t presume to map out the contours of his thoughtscape, I would not begrudge the man one bit were he to, today, feel some frustration in considering where we find ourselves today domestically and within the world community:

Way I see it, America needs a president who's gonna somehow un-royally screw up the Middle East, do some serious cleaning up after you dropped your pants and took a steaming dump all over the fucking environment, and—boom!—restore dignity, honor, and all that shit to these United States.

For all the media prattle of late of candidates "humanizing’ themselves, consider Carter’s term: high ideals, flawed execution, conscience, candor. It seems we’ve largely, collectively forgotten the Carter presidency, and when the media deign to recall it, you can bet that it’ll involve some pretty harsh criticism. For all of his efforts, successes and shortcomings, proposals and pitfalls, one always had the sense that he was genuine. Real.  Human.

More to the point, he saw what was looming on the horizon regarding the intersection of energy use, the environment, and global politics. He warned us, or at least tried his level best to do so, to put into place sustainable diplomatic endeavors abroad, to steer research and development and policy initiatives here at home to shift the course of consumption.

He warned us of what was in store. We didn’t listen, we didn’t change.

Having finished the article, and after I got a hold of myself, I actually got a bit sad.

What if?

What would the world look like if we had spent the last 30 years making real progress in our energy usage? If we could have, somehow, kept to the high road in our diplomatic efforts?

I returned to the present just as my train squealed into the 19th Street terminal, snapping to a realization that spending any psychic energy in that particular place was unconstructive and self-indulgent. We are where we are. It is exactly as it is. The next president has one seriously thankless job in store, and I will do whatever I can to make certain that it’s the Democratic nominee who wins.

As I walked home, increasingly moistened by the light rain that was falling, I started chuckling again: Damn. Here I am sounding like a friggin’ conservative: pining away for a time decades ago that might have been but which never really was.

Originally posted to homo neurotic on Thu Jan 10, 2008 at 07:14 PM PST.

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