Thursday, October 18, 2007

Josh Lanier


A little over 30 years ago I was in the third grade.

I'd never heard of Hunter S. Thompson but I did know Jimmy Carter.

After LBJ "lost the South for a generation" to have a relatively unknown one term governor from Georgia win the Presidency seemed inconceivable. But it happened.

Two years, earlier, Carter, at the time the Governor of Georgia, gave an address on Law Day at the University of Georgia.

When I was about 12 years old, I liked to read, and I had a school principal, named Miss Julia Coleman, Judge Marshall knows her. She forced me pretty much to read, read, read, classical books. She would give me a gold star when I read 10 and a silver star when I read 5.

One day, she called me in and she said, "Jimmy, I think it's time for you to read 'War and Peace.'" I was completely relieved because I thought it was a book about cowboys and Indians. Well, I went to the library and
checked it out, and it was 1,415 pages thick, I think, written by Tolstoy, as you know, about Napoleon's entry into Russia in the 1812-15 era. He had never been defeated, and he was sure he could win, but he underestimated the severity of the Russian winter and the peasants' love for their land.

To make a long story short, the next spring he retreated in defeat. The course of history was changed; it probably affected our own lives.

The point of the book is, and what Tolstoy points out in the epilogue is, that he didn't write the book about Napoleon or the Czar of Russia or even the generals, except in a rare occasion. He wrote it about the students and the housewives and the barbers and the farmers and the privates in the army. And the point of the book is that the course of human events, even the greatest historical events, are not determined by the leaders of a nation or a state, like Presidents or governors or senators. They are controlled by the combined wisdom and courage and commitment and discernment and unselfishness and compassion and love and idealism of the common ordinary people.

If that was true in the case of Russia where they had a czar or France where they had an emperor, how much more true is it in our own case where the Constitution charges us with a direct responsibility for determining what our government is and ought to be.

I will tell you this. I've shook the hands of men who have mended my fence. I've shook the hand of the man who tossed five 50 pound bags of 15-15-15 in the back of my truck. I've shook the hands of men who sign notes to save farms in the morning and go to help gather hay in the afternoon. I have shook the hands of men who have never seen a hard day of labor.

I've never shook Josh Lanier's hand but I have talked to the man. I can't tell you most of what passed because it was personal. I can't tell you because in some places that still matters.

We will see what comes next, but maybe it's time to pay attention to the things that still matter.

2 comments:

collard green said...

I don;t know you, man. But Like your music, your movies and apparently your politics. I also like Jimmy Carter's Law day speech. I think about it every day.

I also like what I hear about josh lanier. Can you tell me more about him?

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