The Last True President


When I learned that Jimmy Carter had left the Southern Baptist Association due to the Association being too long in a “twisted interpretation” of God and the Bible, it suddenly hit me that Jimmy Carter exemplified the best leadership of any President in my lifetime, which includes the much revered Kennedy-Reagan duo (left-right punch). Jimmy Carter brought real internally sprung love to the White House, the US government and the country, and he continued his legacy throughout his life. He has been judged “ineffectual” by the power-money-cocaine-sex fueled cartels that run this country now. They do not even realize that his Spirit shines brightly over all their imagined and over-rated power in the world. The fact that they see him as ineffectual keeps him safe in a way. And even though he only served one term, he lead with vision and integrity.

A studied review of his Administration reveals that he was the first President to move us toward solar energy. In 1979, President Carter installed 32 solar panels on the roof of the White House kitchen. These panels provided solar-heated water for many of the cleaning tasks at the White House until the panels were dismantled by the Reagan Administration under the auspices of redoing the roof. Here is what Carter predicted at the dedication ceremony for the solar installation: “A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.” As a skilled leader, he set an example and laid out the choices, and left it to the people to decide.

(For more on this see

President Carter was the first US President to make “human rights” a centerpiece of his Foreign Policy. While some pundits decried this as interfering with the sovereign rights of other nations, Carter brought this very expansive and loving idea – that human beings have the right to be free from enslavement, violence, threats and persecution no matter the ideological/geographic context of their lives – to the world’s governance agenda. How well his administration implemented this mandate is debatable, but once again, Carter came through as a true leader bringing a new vision based on true Christian love into the global arena.

Another visionary act of the Carter Administrantion was the ratification of the Panama Canal Treaty which guaranteed the neutrality of the Canal after the year 2000. Following years of US administration of the Canal, this resource was returned to Panama with an understanding of goodwill and acknowledgement of American “interest” in its operation. While some Americans argued that we were giving up power and control in the region, Carter demonstrated a deeper understanding of sovereignty with his position that the Canal belonged to Panama. After an intense lobbying effort, the President won the necessary approval of the Senate to implement this historic treaty.

His greatest achievement was the Camp David Peace Accords, which resulted in an end to war between Egypt and Israel. Interestingly, the Accords were the seed for future peace treaties AND further strife in the Middle East. President Carter took on this world peace initiative at the urging of Rosalyn Carter, who suggested he invite the leaders of the two countries to Camp David for a summit. Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachim Begin of Israel spent 10 days at Camp David discussing the parameters of peace between their nations. An impasse was reached and the talks seemed failed, when Carter developed his single document mediation strategy. He met with Sadat and Begin individually until they had crafted a manuscript of terms and conditions they both could agree with. This agreement became the Camp David Accords.

President Carter’s administration was based in a politics of the heart that is almost inconceivable within the hyper-Capitalist plutocracy we have today. He and President Obama share a deep integrity that is rare in contemporary politics. Unfortunately for President Obama, he was indoctrinated into a system that was already bought and paid for by the corporate elite. His light and vision were dimmed by the mediated circus that only allows grins, tweets, and little bites of rhetoric with all substance squeezed right out. He did the best he could within the box he is imprisoned in. Carter was able to lead in a time when our government had an inkling of independence and vision. Obama had to settle for the sound and fury that signify nothing.

Come to think of it, Jimmy Carter may have been … the last true President.





Separation and in-between – Jan-Ru Wan @ Visual Arts Exchange

Photo by Jan-Ru Wan

Several years ago, Jody Cassell and I performed a sound and movement work at the opening of Jan-Ru Wan’s collaborative installation entitled Resolving the Disquiet at the Durham Arts Council. Jody and Jan-Ru had connected over their mutual grieving around the deaths of their respective fathers. Grief was the focus of the exhibit that featured visual and performance work by two other artists, as well. In a recent email exchange Jan-Ru said that what motivated her to focus on grief in her art was the way Western culture encourages hidden grieving. Both Jody and Jan-Ru have connected with a public that is crying out to come together in a shared grieving process.

This weekend at Raleigh’s First Friday event, we will once again collaborate in a new exhibit Separation and in-between, which approaches grief from another point of view. In the time since the DAC exhibit, my youngest brother died and Jody has accompanied her Mother through many changes of aging. Both Jody and Jan-Ru continue to carry their fathers as well. Time and reflection change the shape, texture and weight of grief.

Jan-Ru’s Artist Statement inspired Jody’s movement and my soundscape:

For over two years Jan-Ru Wan gathered discarded hair from salons around the world (Arnhem, Netherlands; Taipei, Taiwan; Cary, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina) to create this installation, which speaks to global migration and culture.

Our hair is highly personal and yet universal. Hair is a marker of our identity—of our current self and of our desired self in that it can easily be altered in color and style. Hair is part of our body and yet we purposefully dispose of it, leaving behind pieces and strands in public places like barbershops and salons.

Here, DNA from countless hair samples from strangers across the globe have been combined by chance and stitched into printed silk pouches. Within each pouch, one person’s DNA intermixes with others, blending numerous identities into one piece to represent this global and confusing world.

Separation can refer to the hair physically separated from our body or to the emotional separation from our love ones. It can also refer to the separation from our past cultural identity that occurs when we are immersed in the global melting pot.

As Jan-Ru gathered hair, I gathered sound samples from my last visit to Trendsetters, where I have my hair cut. These samples have been layered in and slightly distorted so that the act of cutting away part of one’s self is suggested as well as represented. The tones and intervals of the soundscape are in the form of the pentatonic scale created when only the accidentals (the black keys on the piano) are played. This scale lies outside the more familiar Western intervals of the Aeolian/Solfege scale of the white keys. For the first part of the soundscape, these two worlds are separate.

Jan-Ru ends her Artist Statement with this wonderful image:

For my late father: The moment you left me our identities and destinies changed. We now have infinite space in between us, a constant that pushes us apart and yet draws close our hearts. The moment you separated from my body you took on a new adventure and a new identity, but here I am without you, my old memories combining with fresh ones.

The last section of the soundscape is made up of three tonic tones (BDE) with their natural harmonics articulated. So, for example, B is presented with A (its fifth) articulated in the second octave, and F# (its third) in the third octave. Usually triads are presented as chords in the same octave, in this case I have spread them out over several octaves representing infinite space and separation. As this plays out in long, slow waves, I improvise with just the three tonic tones as a drawing close of the hearts.

Jody’s movements interweave and juxtapose both the physical installation and the soundscape. Her use of angles, gestures and the overall space are an evocative exploration and expansion of the themes of Jan-Ru Wan’s work.

The opening is tonight, October 7, from 6 to 9 at VAE located at 309 W. Martin Street in Raleigh. Our first performance is at 6:45 pm, and we plan to present at several other points during the evening. We would love to see you there.