I disagree with Mr. David Samuels ' portrayal of President Obama as a jet-setting paper tiger in this September's Harper's magazine article, "The Changeling." To be sure, the President has conscripted quite a few Super-PAC fundraisers, but he still has plenty of soul left. This past summer, the nomination of organic Valley author-farmer David Mas Masumoto was one such proof.
Del Rey farmer David Mas Masumoto (DMM), an unassuming Japanese-American author, has written inspiring epistolaries contained in books such as Letters to the Valley, and Heirlooms. The National Endowment for the Arts nomination may seem but a tidal mark in his career, but the recent embittered power struggles within the Fresno Unified School District has proven that local Hmong remain just so much political fodder. In contrast, hopefully, Mr. David Mas Masumoto's addition will be a reminder that change, like wisdom, can be ever-present.
Soon after reading about Mr. Masumoto's nomination, I yearned to acquaint myself with this third-generation farmer's writings. Is his style like Benjamin Banneker, originator of the Farmer's Almanac? Or is he more like an Asian version of Henry David Thoreau?
Of course, the public (including me) have long had accesss to his essays via the Fresno Bee column (now online). But his books are just so much better, like receiving your very own Harry and David gourmet gift package made to order. In fact, this organic farmer reflects, provides, and evinces such a timelessness, it can only be surpassed by the beautiful rural scenes of his books, with paintings by Doug Hansen.
In essays of Letters, one experiences a reawakening to not just DMM's personal history or visions as a farmer, but a collective rural American past. This is the Americana which we have archived in library collections, faded black and white photos such as those framed on rustic diner's walls, experienced only when we care to take the back roads out into the country. I like how Democratic Representative Jim Costa had this to say with regard to his nomination:
As a farmer and an author, he [DMM] has grown and created things of beauty his entire life. His words jump off the page and give life to what is special about the place that we are proud to call home.
In his letters to his daughter, son, mother, dad, grandmother, friends, or neighbors, DMM creates imaginary ideal dialogues. Not today's quick, rushed tweets filled with regrettable troll-like sarcasm. Nor tommorrow's sorrowful forecasts or all-embracing platitudes. There is something so wholesome, immediate, and touching about these epistolary dialogues, that it transcends all the attachments, guilt trips, power trips, and angsts of today's nerve-wracked pace of life, filled with everyone's need for instant gratification.
Many hopeful writers and artists, professionals, scholars, or amateurs, are proud to have David Mas Masumoto as the Valley's National Council on the Arts representative. Imagine new cultural arts events, arts trails, landscape, museum, fundraisers, venues, contest, mural, and yes, maybe even scholarship infusions. Maybe we will even get our own version of DC's Street Sense newspaper (newspaper exclusively established by and for the homeless), going right here in the Valley. Maybe we will start having our own version of DC Kitchen, so ex-cons can become culinary artisans.
Here is how Representative Jim Costa closed his statement about the nominee:
He [DMM] will be an invaluable asset to the National Council on the Arts. There is no more fitting testimony to his contributions to our nation and the San Joaquin Valley than this nomination.
For once, I totally agree.
Image of NEA Arts from National Endowment for the Arts; article prepared by chriswong
Costa, Jim. "Rep. Costa Statement on Nomination of David "Mas" Masumoto to National Council on the Arts. U.S. Congressman Jim Costa. Costa.house.gov, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012