Friday, September 18, 2009

Racism and the Obama Opposition

Jimmy Carter laid in on the line this week! Does he have a case?
by Charlie Leck

Jimmy Carter is viewed as a bad President. My wife won’t agree with you. She thought Carter was both a wonderful man and a good President. Frankly, so did I, but I’ve thought about this question at great length and, I think, in great depth. Most people have not. “You could believe Jimmy Carter,” my dearest said to me one day. “You could both believe him and believe in him.”

I urged her to tell me more. “Jimmy Carter didn’t have a huge ego. He was a simple, sincere Christian. He wasn’t going to save his presidency by being a phony. Jimmy Carter wanted to help the underdog. He wanted to help the poor and needy. He wanted to help the hungry and the diseased. For God’s sake, who does that sound like? He was an avid, enthusiastic follower of his Lord. It’s not something we expect of a President, so people were confused and even embarrassed by it. It became easy to think Jimmy Carter was a simpleton. I have a feeling a lot of people thought Jesus was a simpleton also.” I wanted her to add that Jimmy Carter believed that peace was possible. He believed that Israel and the Islamic world could live in peace. Of course he was an idealist! So was Gandhi! So was Martin Luther King, Jr..

Try this on and see how it fits. Most people couldn’t keep up with Carter or relate to him. He spoke from a different perspective and with different beliefs than most people. His presidency came crashing down on him as a result of the Iranian hostage situation and the totally unethical interference in that situation by presidential candidate Ronald Reagan. Reagan cut a deal, outside the law and outside the realm of justice and ethics, for the Iranians to delay the release of the hostages until he took office. In return, he promised the Iranians a healthy amount of military weapons when he got to the White House. Now, with that in mind, you tell me who was the “good” President and who was the “bad” one. For God’s sake people, open your brains just an inch, will you!

We’ve had lots of presidents who’ve pretended to be religious. Jimmy Carter was really, deep down, a man of faith and commitment to his Lord and Master. George W. Bush called Jesus Christ both his hero and his savior. Remember that? I never got the feeling that President Bush really understood what that means. As a matter of fact, I was pretty certain that he did not; but, as a matter of fact, most of my fundamentalist Christian friends haven’t the slightest idea what it means to be committed to Christ. Carter did!

So, when Jimmy Carter says that it is racism that prompts most of the cruel opposition to President Obama, I’m going to sit up and take notice and listen to what he’s saying.

Frankly, this is a red-flag issue. Very few people are willing to sit back and think about it – and discuss it calmly. Hardly anyone is willing to consider Carter’s comments as something worth discussing. Is there any chance that some of this more volatile and ugly dislike of President Obama could find its foundation in racism? I know Obama wants to dismiss it. I would expect that. Yet, the Joe Wilson incident – and the strong hatred that cropped up during the campaign – and the hatred cropping up now during the town hall meetings – and the whole unnecessary and trivial birth certificate incident – make me wonder if there isn’t something more behind all this than just political differences. Look at the right wing protest on the Mall last week. There were Confederate flags in abundance. There was more than one depiction of President Obama in white face. There were also signs suggesting that the President go “back” to Africa.

Does any of this sound like racism to you? Does it come close enough that a discussion of the possibility is warranted? You can bet contemporary historians are looking at this question – and so are sociologists and philosophers and psychologists. To dismiss it out-of-hand, as stupid, is to be indeed stupid. Former President Carter’s comments are worthy of serious and thoughtful discussion.

It is worth adding here, as my proof reader pointed out to me, that Jimmy Carter is a man of the South and he understands the southern perspective more than most. He also understands racism in the South versus racism in the North. He understands the fears of the southern voter. He also understands the southern Bible Belt and the "born again" Christians who are so dominant there.
Personally, I think most “Jesus saves” Christians are idiots -- even understanding that Carter is one of them. Most of them don’t understand “the cost of discipleship.” And, they don’t understand the depth of this man from Galilee. They don’t understand the call that he uttered to those fishermen by the sea that day: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Jimmy Carter understood and he dedicated his life to that calling. He became a “fisher of men.” He devoted his life to seeking peace. God bless a man like that; "for blessed are the peacemakers!"

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