Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Memorial Service That Wasn't, And Celebrations

Wednesday night's Memorial Service for the victims of Jared Loughner's shooting rampage was widely framed as being a "defining" moment of Obama's presidency. I am not sure why that was the meme, which continues to be perpetuated the day after, but there it is. For some reason, the service for the fallen soldiers gunned down by Major Hasan, was not. No, this one was compared to Bill Clinton and the Oklahoma City bombing, and George W. Bush after 9/11. Neither of those is a true comparison, IMHO. If anything, George W. Bush speaking to the nation at Virginia Tech after the horrible massacre there would be a better comparison.

Regardless, this should not have been all about Obama. It SHOULD have been about the victims whose lives were lost, and those who continue to overcome their gunshot wounds, particularly Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

But no. The Memorial Service was not so much a service as it became a pep rally, even a campaign rally. I have conducted a number of memorial services in my life, and I can say that none of them have had a slogan like, "Together We Thrive." Nor have there ever been any "souvenir" t-shirts handed out to the first 20,000 mourners. Neither has there been hooting and hollering, booing (of Gov. Jan Brewer when she took the stage), or a eulogy interrupted by applause and whistles. Nope, nary a one.

Now some folks have said that the locale was to blame, and one commentator (Allyson Camerota) who said the room just seemed to get away from Obama, that he, too, seemed surprised by the responses. Well, here's the thing. Rather than allowing them to dictate how the service would go, and falling back into his campaign-speech mode, one would think the Leader of the Free World could lead. HE could have demonstrated the appropriate manner in such a service. He could have asked for people to please hold their applause. There are any NUMBER Of things he could have done. That is the responsibility of the person at the podium (or pulpit). Ministers deal with it all the time - President Obama could, too.

Instead, one of the most played moments is his intoning, "And Gabby opened her eyes. {PAUSE} Gabby opened her eyes." Now, that is an amazing occurrence, and one of the Celebrations to which I am referring in the title of this post. It is fantastic news. I am DELIGHTED that she is making that kind of progress, What a miracle, what a blessing, what a gift that must have been to her husband and friends as they spent time with her. Here is Obama describing what happened:

But Obama did not cause that to happen. It was not about HIM. It was about HER. Rather than allowing that newsflash to fill the room, Obama slipped into his campaign mode. That was unfortunate.

I don't know who chose the venue, I don't know whose big idea it was to make this a Slogan/t-shirt moment, and who PAID for those t-shirts (us??), but I do know whose responsibility it was to infuse the service with a sense of decorum, and that was the speakers, particularly President Obama.

In comparison, and I admit I did not watch this at the time because you know I was NOT a fan of George Bush, I felt compelled to see how Bush responded to the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007. In my opinion, this is an appropriate way for a president to act at a memorial service:

It was good that Obama made the comment he did about civility in discourse. I hope his own people are listening. As I reflect on all that happened with his campaign, and then his Administration from 2007 on, I am just a bit skeptical. And it was good that he affirmed this horrible tragedy was not the least bit connected to discourse, but even doing so continues to make the connection that never existed in the first place.

I still do not know why this was supposed to be about Obama, since the focus should have been the six lives that were lost that fateful Saturday. I do not know how it became a pep (campaign) rally, and I find that unfortunate. It sullies whatever good things may have been in Obama's speech by his demeanor, and that of the crowd. It was not a Memorial Service, that is for sure. And that is unfortunate.

But there is some good news from Wednesday. Rep. Giffords did open her eyes, moved her arm, her leg, and seemed to be aware of what was going on around her. That is exceptional news, and gives us all hope that she will recover from this horrible attack.

Another celebration occurred in the State of South Carolina when we swore in our first woman, and first minority, governor. Yes, Nikki Haley, all of 38 years old, took the oath of office on Wednesday. Her husband was by her side in full dress uniform (he is an Army officer). Expectations are high for our first woman governor, and so far, she has not disappointed in her choice of cabinet members, including an African American woman, Lynne Rogers, to run the Probation, Parole, and Pardon department. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

SC is not alone, though. New Mexico, and the nation, got its first Latina governor, Susana Martinez this week. Oklahoma also got its first woman governor this year, Mary Falin.

Congratulations to all three women, and to the states whom they will serve. It's about damn time.


Stray Yellar Dawg? said...

Once again... thank you for echoing my sentiments. The idea of handing out Obama t-shirts at a "memorial service" kinda creeped me out.

That footage of GWB takes me aback. I had not listened to it at the time, either. Now I wonder exactly why? Who convinced me that he was such a god-awful President?? (That is another subject altogether.)

But here I am... and maybe I am just getting old. I find cheering and handing out t-shirts at a "memorial service" distasteful, at least. Maybe even reprehensible.

And when I think about how this week will be remembered.... I shock myself:


Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Hey, SYD -

I know. I understand the students may have been responsible, but I cannot believe the university wouldn't have had to run that by the WH first.

No kidding - I couldn't believe it when I saw the video of Bush v. Obama's pep rally. What a shocking difference. I saw a minute or two of an interview with Katie Couric (ugh) and Bush right before the service. She asked abt him meeting with the victims' families. He said something along the lines of just wanting to be there for them, to hug them, let them know they were loved, and to listen to them (I think I got that all right). Wow.

I dunno - maybe I'm getting older, too, but like I said, as a minister, I cannot imagine having all of that going on at a Memorial Service. And Obama SHOULD have been able to set the tone, perhaps not for what came before him, but certainly when he was talking. The first time people applauded, he could have said, "please hold your applause. This is not the moment." But no - he likes the applause too much, and then started his campaign voice going. Blech.

Thanks for the link!