Some people can’t resist the temptation to be cruel, even in the aftermath of the Rosalynn Carter funeral, a time when respect should be a given.
Politics, these days, rears its ugly head all too often. And that ugly head seems to get uglier by the day. We can blame at least one recent former president on that kind of behavior. But if there was a time for a show of respect, the Rosalynn Carter funeral would have been it.
You can argue all day — and you’d be wasting your time — that Jimmy Carter won’t be remembered as the greatest U.S. president. His domestic policy clearly fell short of the mark. The landslide victory of Ronald Reagan in 1980 speaks clearly to that point. Carter’s foreign policy, however, was far more of a success. He even won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work toward peace in international conflicts.
But this week, much of the nation rightly focused its attention on the former president’s personal life. Carter’s wife, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, died on Nov. 19 at age 96. She became the second longest-lived first lady in the nation’s history. (Bess Truman, who died at 97 in 1982, was the longest-lived.)
The Carters stayed married longer than any American presidential couple as well. Their marriage lasted 77 years. George H.W. and Barbara Bush come in second place at 73 years.
Jimmy Carter, who entered hospice earlier this year, turned 99 in October. He’s frail, although I’ve never seen a 99-year-old who wasn’t frail, at least to some degree. But after being married to his wife longer than any other commander-in-chief, he expended the effort to attend his beloved wife’s funeral. You should be able to admire that kind of devotion. You should be able to admire that kind of determination.
I say ‘should’ be able to…because some clearly weren’t
I looked at some of the comments on various news stories about the Carter funeral. In particular, some comments about the appearance of the former president illustrate all one needs to see about today’s politics.
If I called some of them cruel, I’d be guilty of understatement.
The criticism, ironically, came from people clearly on the opposite side of Carter’s politics.
It’s the Republican Party that likes to brand itself as the one on the side of Christ. Some Republicans like to brand themselves part of the “religious right,” implying they have a corner of the market on morality. Yet they found in this moment no room for respect or compassion. They couldn’t trouble themselves to remember the sage advice that tells us that when you find you have nothing nice to say, it’s usually better to simply remain silent.
That should extend to one’s fingers when the tempting moment comes to type a crass comment rather than speak cruel words.
It was that other party that produced the longest presidential marriage. Far be it from them to pause to celebrate that kind of devotion.
It was Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter who worked long after they left the White House on projects to help those in need with Habitat for Humanity and the Carter Center. Far be it from Carter’s critics to admire that kind of selfless service.
Yet I’d be willing to bet it was those who jeered the former president’s appearance and frailty who probably claim they are the ones who better emulate the symbol of their faith. It was Jesus Christ, I believe, who said that one of the two greatest commandments was to love your neighbor as yourself.
These people couldn’t even set aside their stupid, silly political bickering to follow the most basic and most critical tenet of their own faith. There may well come a day when they stand in judgment. I’d hate to find that level of meanspirtedness added to the list of things I’ll have to answer for. Maybe they don’t care. More’s the pity.
The ‘tempting moment’ was too tempting
There’s a quote I see attributed to the late John Charles Daly, a journalist who might be better known for moderating the panel show What’s My Line? that I’ve used before. I think this is a perfect time to repeat it:
- The art of conversation lies not only in saying the right thing at the right time, but in leaving unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
How sad it is that some people are so fired up by politics that they couldn’t resist that temptation. How sad for them that when given the opportunity to be kind, they couldn’t muster up an ounce of it.
And how sad for their children and those who look up to them that they couldn’t have taken the opportunity to be more Christlike in their behavior toward a grieving family.
If they one day make it to Heaven — and I sincerely hope they do — I expect God to show them their callous remarks and ask them to explain.
They certainly found plenty of words to spew towards Carter. I wonder if they’ll be so easily verbose in that moment.
One doesn’t have to be a Democrat to be grateful for the Carters’ service and their love story. We all should be.
I find it sad that it’s that love story that provided an unfortunate but important reminder of how unspeakably evil American politics — and some of its people — can be.
We should aspire to do better. We shouldn’t need such examples to be reminded of such failings.
Too often, we do.