Carter selflessly hammered for the homeless, monitored elections in Third World countries and traveled tirelessly for peace for a couple of decades before he won. Carter wasn’t jailed or beaten, but he certainly didn’t live life on a golf course or rest on his laurels, as many a former president has. He taught poor farmers better farming techniques and used his scientific bent to study contaminated water, hunger and drought in remote lands far from the television cameras.
Carter deserved the Peace Prize perhaps more than any other American to take the bow in Stockholm, except for Martin Luther King Jr. But the Carter choice drove the Radio Right mad. Rush Limbaugh called Carter “America’s hemorrhoid.”
Al Gore put concern about climate change into the white-hot spotlight of popular culture, which is the only way science gets attention in an era of short attention spans and anti-intellectualism. The radical right, again, mocked the choice of Gore.
So it comes as no surprise that those who weren’t gracious about the tremendous honor bestowed on Carter and Gore – and, as a result, this country – aren’t happy about Obama. And you can bet the same critics, or at least their ilk, objected – or would have, had they been of age – to the choice of Martin Luther King Jr.
Peace Prize recipients are never perfect. Woodrow Wilson segregated federal workplaces, causing the firing of hundreds of black employees. But he won the prize. Teddy Roosevelt killed more than 11,000 animals on an African safari. And he won one.
President Obama barely has had enough days in office to locate the White House cloak room. And now he has won. The choice was a surprise, even to the Obama White House. Obama himself says he doesn’t deserve it, and that he’ll give the money to charity and accept the Prize in the spirit in which it obviously is offered.
This choice says loudly, dramatically, what the rest of the world has been thinking: Maybe there is at least some hope for world peace now that the United States of America has managed to elect a president with an IQ larger than his hat size who is willing to engage in open-minded discussion before rattling sabers, a man who will work with the United Nations instead of undermining it, a fellow whose eloquence and idealism could be used to work for good. Might for right.
President Obama has given those who want a safer, better world hope. That is no small accomplishment. For that famous warning from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower – both a Republican and a career military man – seems to have come true. Eisenhower warned of this country being run by a military-industrial complex.
The only way the U.S. seems to prosper is by waging war. There is always some rogue leader to satisfy the boogeyman requirements and keep the drums of war pulsating and the military industrial contractors and generals salivating.
Perhaps the Nobel Prize people were saying this is the time and the opportunity and personality to aim for a better way in a nuclear age. And if that’s not what a Peace Prize is all about, it ought to be.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.