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Archive for July, 2016


Here’s the kind of story that makes you go “Wow!” in a feel-good way–and God knows we need something to feel good about.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary today.*

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter talk about their years together in his office at the Carter Center in Atlanta on June 22, 2016. They will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary July 7. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter talk about their years together in his office at the Carter Center in Atlanta on June 22, 2016. They will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary July 7. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

This is all the more Wow-worthy because Jimmy Carter, 91 years old and sharp as a tack, is a walking miracle. Even the former President himself thought he had maybe two weeks left when cancer was discovered in his liver and brain last year.

* * *

I voted for Jimmy Carter all those years ago because, like everybody else at the time, I was suffering a political hangover from paranoid Richard Nixon and his steely, bloodless minions Haldeman (Nixon’s Chief of Staff and Ehrlichman (the counsel and advisor).

I don’t think people who came of age after the Watergate years can fathom how dark the mood of the country was in the wake of the double-whammy of Vietnam and Watergate.

Gerald Ford was a much-respected Congressman when he took over the Presidency, and the very decent and genuine Carter was his equal in terms of decency and down-to-earthness.

But Ford’s sin was pardoning Nixon in a time when nobody in the country was in the mood for letting Nixon off the hook.

Smilin’ Jimmy Carter, complete with his eccentric mother and crazy redneck brother and the whole down-home Carter clan, was like a national breath of fresh air.

Smilin’ Jimmy also a record of accomplishment that wouldn’t quit.

He was a salt-of-the-earth family farmer at a time when family farmers (remember them?) were the most admired of Americans.

Furthermore, Jimmy Carter of the big open grin was a graduate of the Naval Academy who had done time as a Navy officer. And in running for President one always has instant credibility being a popular governor, which Carter was.

To top it all off, he was a born-again Christian and longtime Sunday School teacher–an evangelical who wore God’s grace with quiet integrity.

Of course, we all know the rest of the story. As a President, he was a micro-managing, detail-oriented disaster–a desperate scrambler rather than an inspiring leader.

To hear the President of the United States inform you that you’re suffering from a “national malaise” without offering a prescription for relief and an encouraging word is like having a counselor hear your story of woe only to tell you, “Man, it sucks to be you.”

* * *

In fairness, Jimmy’s determined efforts to bring the leaders of Egypt and Israel together in a peace pact was a huge accomplishment in the context of the times. Too bad it’s the sort of accomplishment that the average American voter could care less about.

Whatever admiration Americans have for Carter and the First Lady Rosaylnn has grown exponentially through the years since that night they famously danced together down on the farm after being defeated by the peppy visionary Ronald Reagan.

They got up the morning after defeat, prayed, and worked on the week’s Sunday school lesson.

Personally, I admire Carter all the more for his courageous and very unpopular opinions on conflicts in the Middle East as much as I admire him for his devout faith and deeds and commitment to God, country and his sweetheart of 70 amazing years.

Long may they live.

*See a June story from Atlanta Constitution here.

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Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. … Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”

From the powerful and haunting 100-page Holocaust book Night, by Elie Wiesel

"Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." -- Elie Wiesel in his Nobel Prize Aceptance Speech (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews)

“Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” — Elie Wiesel in his Nobel Prize Aceptance Speech (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews)

    “Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out, swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing … And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes.

    “And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished.

    “Behind me, I heard the same man asking: ‘For God’s sake, where is God?’
    “And from within me, I heard a voice answer:

    “‘Where He is? This is where–-hanging here from this gallows…’”

From Associated Press in New York:

    Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, the Romanian-born Holocaust survivor whose classic Night became a landmark testament to the Nazis’ crimes and launched Wiesel’s long career as one of the world’s foremost witnesses and humanitarians, has died at age 87.

    His death was announced Saturday by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. No other details were immediately available.

    The short, sad-eyed Wiesel, his face an ongoing reminder of one man’s endurance of a shattering past, summed up his mission in 1986 when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize: “Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

    For more than a half-century, he voiced his passionate beliefs to world leaders, celebrities and general audiences in the name of victims of violence and oppression. He wrote more than 40 books, but his most influential by far was Night, a classic ranked with Anne Frank’s diary as standard reading about the Holocaust.

    Night was his first book, and its journey to publication crossed both time and language. It began in the mid-1950s as an 800-page story in Yiddish, was trimmed to under 300 pages for an edition released in Argentina, cut again to under 200 pages for the French market and finally published in the United States, in 1960, at just over 100 pages.

    “Night is the most devastating account of the Holocaust that I have ever read,” wrote Ruth Franklin, a literary critic and author of A Thousand Darknesses,” a study of Holocaust literature that was published in 2010.

    “There are no epiphanies in Night. There is no extraneous detail, no analysis, no speculation. There is only a story: Eliezer’s account of what happened, spoken in his voice.”

    Wiesel began working on Night just a decade after the end of World War II, when memories were too raw for many survivors to even try telling their stories. Frank’s diary had been an accidental success, a book discovered after her death, and its entries end before Frank and her family was captured and deported. Wiesel’s book was among the first popular accounts written by a witness to the very worst, and it documented what Frank could hardly have imagined.

    Night was so bleak that publishers doubted it would appeal to readers. In a 2002 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Wiesel recalled that the book attracted little notice at first. “The English translation came out in 1960, and the first printing was 3,000 copies. And it took three years to sell them. Now, I get 100 letters a month from children about the book. And there are many, many million copies in print.”

At Buchenwald, April 16, 1945: Elie Wiesel, second row, seventh from the left

At Buchenwald, April 16, 1945: Elie Wiesel, second row, seventh from the left

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