All of a sudden I am inundated with Comments of the Day. This one, by Michael, is the most recent, but I am jumping it in the queue because it provides a provocative counterpoint to today’s essay on the John Lewis funeral.
Here is Michael’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Observations On The John Lewis Funeral”:
First, W. I listened to every speech,, every eulogy. I tried to follow every nuance. W’s presence and his speech were healing in nature, and I (am I alone in this?) believe that is why he was there and why he spoke as he did. It therefore moved me, but of course that is an emotional rather than logical response. Was it unethical for W to speak that way or for me to respond as I did? I think not, if what we are really discussing is ethics and not politics and ideologies.
What about Obama? I did not “like” his eulogy, but it was not speaking to me. It was a funeral, people! He was consistent with the spirit of Lewis. No matter what one thinks about Lewis’ merits as a legislator or his oppositional “stunts” toward those with whom he disagrees, there is little doubt that his reputation as a “fighter” for justice for African Americans was earned and is admirable. For Pete’s (John’s) sake, the 14th Amendment came into effect 152 years ago, the progress made after the protests of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s was more than half a century ago, and here we are; still trying to address (as they must be) racism, inequality, and justice. No, Obama’s speech was not out of place for a funeral. The primary purpose of a funeral is to honor the dead; and Obama did indeed say “what John Lewis would have liked to hear”.
As I said at the outset, I do not agree with several of the characterizations by Pres Obama but …. the fact that it was a media event did magnify what he said. Had it been a private funeral, it would have not been inappropriate — just as it would not have been inappropriate (perhaps incorrect but not inappropriate) for another speaker to deliver that speech. The one “celebrity” speaker who captured the moment was Xernona Clayton; a very personal eulogy from a 4’11” dynamo who will be 90 this month. Let’s be careful, in criticizing and critiquing the oratory at the funeral and the people who spoke, to not forget a few things: the civil rights leaders were brave courageous, their fight was just; that someone speaks well of a man who did not treat him well is to be praised, not denigrated; that this was a funeral (!) to honor John Lewis…and he was so honored.
When my youngest son died, his brother honored a pact they had made after reading Speaker for the Dead, and spoke objectively but lovingly about the missing spark in our family. I know of no such pact here, so the focus on the positive at a funeral is neither unexpected nor unethical. I wish I were more knowledgeable and more articulate so I could really communicate as objectively as possible the interplay of facts and emotion inherent (for me) in the elements of this funeral. John Lewis may have acted — at least on occasion — in a way that was inconsistent with greatness; but he said great things. And by saying great things, he loud the foundation for aspirational acts. I wish I could understand everything, could simplify complexities and comprehend inconsistencies. Probably not happening. From Speaker for the Dead: “I want to understand everything,” said Miro. “I want to know everything and put it all together to see what it means.”
“Excellent project,” she said. “It will look very good on your resume”