I am indebted to a comment made by a member of the far right, on a blog I saw somewhere in my travels in cyberspace, for triggering something in my mind. He made the suggestion that John Edwards and Jimmy Carter were related. He meant it to be an insult of course, but that’s not important. He is a southerner himself by the way. Always blows me away to hear a southerner vilify Jimmy Carter. It would be one thing if he deserved it – he deserves the opposite.
It occurred to me that we have now in the White House, a man the so-called "Christian" right adores – or once adored anyway. It’s safe to say he’s not quite as adored as he once was, but the extent to which that’s true we may never know, since they aren’t exactly famous for admitting they could have possibly been wrong about anything. They’re probably silently muttering to themselves that the only reason George Bush is a roaring disappointment has got to have something with Bill Clinton and/or the Democrats/liberals, but that’s only so they don’t burst into tears over it. Some of them even still cling to the illusion he’s somehow a southerner. But I digress.
We once had an authentic Christian in the White House. His name was Jimmy Carter. He was not only an authentic Christian, he was an authentic Southerner. The far right, and the lapdog press that encourages them, has managed to stick him with several unattractive labels – failure, bad president, anti-Semite – I lose track of them all. Much like my countryman’s attempt to insult the man however, none of that matters. The millions of us in the South and elsewhere, who are capable of thinking for ourselves, can see clearly that Jimmy Carter stands head and shoulders above any other president we’ve ever had in the "Christianity" department – the authentic Christianity department that is.
He is also a southerner. He is the kind of southerner that has always done us proud. He’s fiercely competitive (believe it or not), and he is absolutely fearless in the presence of the powerful frauds that have infiltrated the soul of this country. He will not back down. He can’t be bothered with political correctness. He refused to compromise the country’s principles when he was in office and it hurt him politically. He’s also a brilliant man, so there’s not much chance he was unaware of the political risk involved in that kind of courage. For Jimmy Carter, as for southern people going back hundreds of years, the principle was far more important than the consequences. State mottos like Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere, or "We Dare Defend Our Rights" in Alabama; Virtute et Armis, "By Valor and Arms" in Mississippi; and Sic Semper Tyrannis, "Thus Ever To Tyrants," in Virginia, serve as reminders, especially if you read Latin. (They routinely teach Latin in the public schools in Savannah, Georgia.) On a less lofty plane but on bumper stickers with the same spirit, we have "Insured by Smith & Wesson," "I’ll give up my gun when they pry my cold, dead fingers from it," and the immortal "Fergit Hell."
Moving beyond the War of Northern Aggression, we have the Civil Rights era. Contrary to popular misconception, everyone with southern blood is not automatically a mean racist any more than everyone of African-American persuasion loves watermelon and fried chicken. However, being that the latter is no longer a politically correct little piece of bigotry and the former still is, the lie endures.
What’s not a lie is that millions of southern people were as horrified by civil rights abuses as any Yankee ever pretended to be, and worked very hard to eliminate them. Jimmy Carter continues that tradition in his current mission to right some grievous wrongs his beloved country is guilty of abetting in the middle east. His message is unpopular, especially with some extremely powerful groups, and in the noble tradition of all that has always been best about the south, he doesn’t care. He sees his duty and he embraces it and the consequences be damned.
We have another southern man in the spotlight now, also running for President. He is every bit the time-honored southern warrior like Jimmy Carter. He came from nothing and earned his piece of the American dream all by himself. He has taken on the most powerful political forces in this country -- the corporations and their powerful friends in government, and he is swinging away. His life too, has been a fight against injustice. He is still fighting that fight on behalf of the once mighty, now all but vanquished, American middle class, and on behalf of the American poor. He too, is the target of the corporate-controlled media and their shills on the far right. The lengths they are going to to marginalize him are pretty amazing. I can’t tell yet how successful they will be. Mark my word: the candidate the mainstream media most wants to lose is the man for the job. The ones they decide to back, in this case Giuliani and Clinton, are the ones most likely to preserve the corporation’s supremacy. If either one is put in the White House, we’ve seriously damaged the odds we’ll ever get back to who we once were.
At the risk of straining the analogy, the two men share another odd cultural phenomenon. They are both rejected by a large number of their fellow southerners and in John Edwards' case, in favor of a Yankee whose politics under any other circumstances would be loathed by them. They are out to once again sell their souls to the very people who have been systematically exploiting them since 1968 when Nixon first used the words "southern strategy" and it worked like a charm.
I would like to issue a challenge to my fellow southerners, and to all Americans who share our illustrious tradition of fighting for the right against all odds. (New Hampshire, with its "Live Free or Die" motto comes to mind.) To you, if you’re one of them. Take back the moral high ground that once was yours. Put the whole armor of God back on. Do not join the people seeking to muzzle two of the strongest voices for truth, justice, and the American way we’ve heard in decades -- Jimmy Carter and John Edwards. Better yet, break ranks and join the forces of righteousness as they fight the good fight. We might lose that fight, even though we’ve got a better chance of winning it in 2008 than we’ve seen in a long time. If all you care about is being on the winning side, stay where you are. We don’t need that kind of soldier.
But if you care more about who might give you your country back than who the fat cats might be able to shove down our throats no matter how morally bankrupt he might be, come on over. It’s a fight worth fighting no matter what happens, and if enough of you do it, it’s a fight we will win. And wouldn’t that be something for a change.