Presidential — and other — Funerals

This evening I have been watching the arrival ceremony for President Ford’s funeral in Washington. I do not watch much TV, but I like to watch these grand events. So much that happens in the US is cheap, stupid, and tawdry, but the military does put on grand presidential funerals, full of ritual, tradition, dignity, and respect. I was a sophomore in college in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. We were glued to the TV for days, watching the reports of the assassination, the squalid shooting of Oswald, and finally, the dignified funeral processions and ceremonies. When Lyndon Johnson died, I was angry about the Viet Nam war, but I watched. Anguished, I watched Martin Luther King’s funeral and then Robert Kennedy’s. Richard Nixon was an awkward man, uneasy in public appearances. He gets a lot of bad press, but I admired his intelligence, though not his paranoia. I watched his funeral in memory of my Grandfather Parsons, who admired him. I am not a Reagan admirer–all show and often asleep at his post–but his funeral was grand. Someone had an eye for camera angles and shots that caught the dignity and beauty of the settings. I greatly enjoyed Corretta Scott King’s funeral, watching all seven hours on C-span; it was full of rip-roaring oratory, music, and beautifully dressed women with magnificent hats. Ford’s selection of a more modest funeral fits him. Tears welled up as I watched Mrs. Ford, graceful and dignified at 88, moving through the ceremonial parts. I particularly like the word “repose”; it is so dignified. The families of the service men and women participating as honor guards, bandsmen, casket bearers, and so on, must be immensely proud.

So far, Rummy has not shown up. Woodward’s interview of President Ford was most interesting; he thought both Rummy and Cheney had gone too far in pushing the war in Iraq. I wish we had more men of common sense and modesty like Ford running our government, instead of too many politicians who use their positions to grab wealth and power.

Reflecting on the other events of the day, I am appalled that Saddam was hanged, which could not have happened without American acquiescence, especially since his incarceration and trial took place in American protected areas. Saddam was an evil man, but no more evil than countless other dictators and rulers the US supports or has supported. Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo states my view much better than I can. As President Ford pointed out to Woodward, the whole situation in Iraq could have been handed with diplomacy and non-violent methods. I do not believe in executions, for dictators or ordinary criminals. We cannot have Peace on Earth while humans lust for vengeance and revenge.