Saint James of Plains, American politician-martyr

I know that time travel needs to be kept in the realm of science fiction. And that we cannot travel to the future and take a peek back to discover whether canonization of a Southern Baptist can ever take place, or even receive papal consideration. Observing the expeditiousness for elevating John Paul to sainthood, however, one could fantasize of future Vatican efforts to address this former peanut farmer from America’s Georgia, thirty-ninth president of this United States, and martyr of a true universal confession, Truth, as Blessed Jimmy… in a first step towards sainthood.

Granted that this is a premature matter to discuss while President Carter is alive and, one would hope, with many years of longevity before him. But as I witness his painful walk through slow martyrdom, I am compelled to have my say. His interviewers and reviewers in the book-circuit tour have become hungry lions, some would say pit bulls, with uncalled for ferocity towards a gentle person, former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Merciless as those Romans were with the early followers of Christ at the Coliseum – presumably because of their faith – these new centurions of the media are equally sanguine with the follower of another faith: Truth; or, at the very least, his search for truth in debate.

Why? Why is something like this happening without apparent rime or reason to a person who is simply trying to express his views towards a peaceful end? Someone who has an intimate knowledge of the subject writes with utmost objectivity and has no personal ax to grind with either Israel or the Zionist cause? Why is “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” made out to be such a provocative book? Or is “provocative” an epithet given by the media, one with a strictly negative connotation, to label the unthinkable, the great taboo, in this United States: criticism of Israel?

Mr. Carter gives us the answer to our dirty little secret… so widely known, referring to our nation “… where debate and discussion is almost completely absent if it involves any criticism at all of the policies of Israel.” Some would have preferred that President Carter had skipped altogether the word “almost.” Be thankful for the freedom of expression we enjoy in this great country of ours, we are constantly reminded, but also be respectful to the one exception to the rule: Israel and its policies thou shall never criticize… the eleventh commandment on which America’s foreign policy is based.

It was painful to watch the attacks, openly hostile for the most part; even when that hostility was adorned with a few grains of diplomacy or the respect de rigueur. It made little difference whether the interviewer was Jew or Gentile, male or female, old or young, credentialed journalists or cable-reporting hoi polloi. One almost had a sense of discovery. Eureka! This has to be the political common denominator for all Americans: unquestionable loyalty to Israel under any and all circumstances.

Some of these interviewers and reviewers, I can sense, would love to tag Mr. Carter as an anti-Semite, the ultimate label reserved for any critic of Israel and its policies; but even Alan Dershowitz would not dare enter such state of pathetic ridicule with a term directed at a person of unquestionable honor and honesty… nor any of the others.

Yes, I’ve watched Jimmy Carter walk his calvary and live through the stations of his cross. It has been painful to watch, but at the same time it was redemptive to find out that there will always be people, very special people, searching for the truth; and that freedoms, all freedoms, must emanate from that truth.

Perhaps the saddest part of all is in seeing even the most progressive members of his own party, the so called liberal Democrat leaders; distance themselves from the person that should be held as a leader to emulate. But what can you expect when Democratic politicians also suck from a tit of the same “Israel Lobby” udder as do Republicans.

This prominent James of today, follower of those James’s of two millennia ago – The Greater, The Lesser and The Just – is breaking ground for us as an evangelist of sorts, except that his gospel is not of “good news” but of “bad news.” Yet, it’s a gospel of hope not just for Christians, but for Jews and Muslims as well… all children of Abraham.

But bringing these “bad news” of Israel’s occupied territories: the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, should be welcomed knowledge by all Americans, most clueless as to the Palestine reality thanks to the purposely foggy representation by American media of the Middle East. Let’s not tag Mr. Carter as an anti-Israel provocateur, something which he is not. Let’s have for the first time ever in this country a thorough and honest debate on the issues that create this conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and make America part of the solution instead of being the lion’s share of the problem.

President Carter did walk the high wire once before during his presidency as he addressed the problems of energy waste (gluttony) to an American audience that has never been receptive to any type of criticism, and have never forgiven him for that. And to this date, his honesty in the late 70’s on the consumption and importation of oil continues to be masked by portraying him, and his presidency, in a very low regard. Criticism of Israel in his recently published book seems to be just as unwelcome almost three decades later.

After second thoughts, perhaps Saint James of Plains should be honored in the future not as an American politician-martyr, but as the Patron of Truth… not just in America but throughout the world.