Thursday, June 10, 2004


I spent late night watching the C-SPAN replay of the Reagan processional down Pennsylvania Avenue. I had caught just a few minutes of it live before I had to leave for church. The ceremony of it all is striking. And for all the faults of the military, they really stand as the repositors of American pomp and ceremony. The riderless horse with empty boots backwards in its stirrups following behind the casket is more moving than any of the words spoken in honor of the late President will be.

In striking contradistinction of the activity on Philadelphia Avenue and the draped casket in the rotunda were the throngs lining the street and streaming into the Capitol ostensibly to pay respects. Throughout the processional the crowd would begin to applaud as the casket passed by. Who are these people? You don't start clapping when you see a casket! Imagine how moving the scene would have been if as the casket passed you could have heard a pin drop as people truly showed respect. And when was the last time you wore a tank top and shorts to a wake? That seemed to be the dress code for those visiting the Capitol rotunda. This is respect for a fallen President? It would be instructive to see pictures of those who visited the rotunda when, perhaps, Lyndon Johnson laid in state a generation ago.

It is encouraging to see that our nation can still do pageantry. It is less so to see that the people have no clue how to react to it.

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