Jimmy Carter has never been shy about using his 2002 Nobel Peace Prize to speak his mind, even when his ideas go against whatever anyone else might take to be conventional wisdom; and the good news is that his very act of voicing those ideas often prompts others to concur that he may have a point. We saw this in April of 2010, when Reuven Rivlin, the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, was bold enough to suggest that Carter’s proposal for a one-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians should not be dismissed out of hand. Now, however, Carter is voicing equally dangerous ideas that happen to fall right on our doorstep.
Those ideas appeared in yesterday’s New York Times in the form of an op-ed piece entitled “A
Cruel and Unusual Record.” The record Carter has in mind involves the
prevailing policy, in both words and deeds, on human rights. Carter is discreet
enough to avoid comparing us with other countries, but his column amounts to a
laundry list of practices that run the gamut from questionable to downright
offensive. Also, he does not name any specific Americans. This is equally wise,
since he is writing about policy, rather than individual opinion. Policy
reflects the assent, both explicit and implicit, of all those who serve under
it. There is no point in “naming names,” because we are all in the same boat.
This was a bold move on Carter’s part, but he has never been
shy about such bold moves. He understands that the first step in solving any
problem is admitting that the problem exists. He has tried to use the Times as a bully pulpit to get those in
power to make that admission, either voluntarily or by being forced to do so by
their constituents and/or the media. I am not optimistic that this goal will be
achieved. I certainly do not see the media applying pressure, nor do I see
American citizens raising their voice about this matter, just because they are
far more worried about too many other important affairs, such as eating and having
a roof over your head. At best Carter has tried to start a snowball rolling
down a high hill; and we need to see whether that snowball will grow in size by
the “natural causes” of spoken public opinion.