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             The Hero and the Anti-Hero
 
            Quick, who are your living heroes?  Is it a pretty short list?  Jimmy Carter has always been one of mine.  True, he only served one term as President, and could never get re-elected.  True, the economy was truly awful during his term, as was the Iran hostage debacle.  But Jimmy Carter was, and still is, a farmer from Plains, Georgia .  Though a politician, he’s no Washington insider, and he’s no slick, pricey attorney.  He is what he appears to be:  Sunday School teacher, diplomat, unapologetic Christian, and tireless advocator for world peace, especially in the Middle East .
“Jimmy Carter Man From Plains” is a documentary that follows Mr. Carter in some of his many promotional appearances during his recent book tour.  The book entitled, “ Palestine : Peace Not Apartheid,” created controversy because it is openly critical of Israel ’s treatment of Palestinians, particularly in the West Bank, and in Gaza .  The very use of the word “apartheid” was not appreciated by many critics, and others were concerned that Mr. Carter was too one-sided in condemning the Jews but not the Palestinians.  Mr. Carter politely but firmly rejects that criticism.  He says that he is equally critical of the Palestinians’ participation in terrorism, particularly with the suicide bombings.  But he is careful to say that the book is about Palestine , and not Israel .  It’s about how the Palestinians have essentially become prisoners in their own territory, with personal rights severely restricted.  He says that is an obstacle to real peace.  Of course, everybody says they want peace, but the question is always, “On whose terms?”  Mr. Carter, of course, is still proud of having been the peace broker during the famous Camp David accords involving Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachim Begin of Israel .  And that footage is freely interspersed with the modern-day Carter, still trying to influence public opinion.  He accepts practically any invitation to speak, on radio, television, or campus lecture series.  He spends much time in hotel rooms, limos, and airplanes.  He is, for the most part, treated respectfully wherever he goes, as venerable elder statesman that he is.  He handles criticism even-handedly, rarely displaying anger or even irritation, but patiently explains his consistent point of view.  If an interviewer tries to set him up with a series of provocative statements prior to actually asking a question, Mr. Carter will challenge the statements first, and then respond to the question.  He is unafraid for the camera to record him swimming, or to include part of an interview on the “Tonight” show with Jay Leno, where he says that he and Roslynn have been able to stay married for 60 years in part because they give each other a lot of space, and though he thinks as much as her as he always did, she probably thinks less of him!  How could such humility not be endearing?  Sure, the entire documentary is a political valentine.  But if more politicians and chiefs of state were like Jimmy Carter, the world would be a better place.
“Juno” is a film that wasn’t supposed to work.  Take a Director under 30 (Jason Reitman) and two teenage actors (Ellen Page and Michael Cera) doing a screenplay written as a first attempt by a former stripper (Diablo Cody), and it sounds like a complete disaster.  But somehow this movie just shines.  Ms. Cody’s script crackles with smart dialogue, and Ellen Page is wondrous in the anti-hero role of Juno MacGuff, a high school girl who becomes pregnant, and must decide what to do about it.  Fine secondary performances by her parents, Bren and Mac (Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons), along with the prospective adoptive parents Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) all contribute to the high-quality, and eminently watchable, real-life drama with liberal doses of ironic humor.
 
Questions For Discussion 
1)      What needs to be done to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East ?
2)      What needs to be done when an unmarried teenage girl becomes pregnant?
3)      Who are your living heroes?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas