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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hope, from the death of a president

As Buck and Gordon try to decide exactly what they'll be doing with this new year, Mandasaurus enjoyed not working on the National Day of Mourning.

Former President Gerald Ford lay in state at the U.S. Capitol this weekend.

Ford in the Rotunda.
President Ford lying in state in the Rotunda.
Since I live about three miles from there it seemed proper to go. Two friends and I hopped the train to L'Enfant Plaza and walked over to stand in line. We got there at about 8 p.m. Saturday. We stood — among visitors to D.C. who'd spent the entire day outside, mostly — until about 10 waiting and shuffling toward the Capitol.

We walked through security (metal detectors, x-ray machines) to the porch of the Capitol. I heard a little boy talk about Jupiter and "Saturun" and describe the awe of the armed security guards. We passed dozens (seriously, dozens) of security guards. All of them standing tall with solemn faces. Some held giant guns. Some gave sneaky nods as you walked by, saying, "Come on in."

Inside the Capitol Rotunda (which isn't easy to get to and is definitely one of the most beautiful rooms in America) it was silent. Probably 60 people were in there — walking, standing, taking photos — but it was silent. Spotlights hit the casket, soldiers, and wreaths.

Five men — officers of the Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force — stood as still as statues around Ford's casket. I saw one man blink. That's it.

I'm not a traditional gal. I don't toe the line. I can't imagine a military life. (Plus, I'm not allowed in since I take insulin for my diabetes.) I don't think it's for me to follow orders or iron an uniform to look proper.

But I'm incredibly thankful that there are such people out there. These soldiers will fight for America. These soldiers will die for each other. These soldiers can bring peace and war someplace.

It's a beautiful thing to see. It's respectful, beautiful, powerful and even peaceful. Maybe we can give that a chance. Maybe we can take the peace that comes alongside the death of an old man who was once our president and let it grow.

Can it? Will it? Let's hope.


Anonymous tet said...

An Honor Guard is one of the most emotionally beautiful and awe-inspiring tableaus that a military person can be in.

A few words about Gerald Ford, since most of you remember him mainly for his representation as a clumsy person in old SNL sketches and as the man who pardoned Nixon...

Archie Bunker once said that "Gerald Ford did one hell of a good job for a President no one voted for." Absolutely true and I think that it's a bit unfair that he's getting a lesser treatment than Reagan in the media.

There were four Presidents during the 20th Century that came into office with a crisis on hand--FDR, Truman, Ford and Reagan. It was their reaction to the crisis that shaped the world that came after.

Ford was an appointed Vice-President, put into office when Nixon's first-term Veep was found to have been as crooked as everyone else in that administration. Nixon had taken the politically expedient route of scouring the Congress for the most honest man in office there.

Nixon found America an Eagle Scout to do the job. I don't know how much you know about that rank, but it's only achieved after years of work and amounts to only about a half of one percent of the male population.

So, when Watergate hit and Nixon resigned, he was faced with a country that was more divided than it is today with no faith in the exectutive branch. The Vietnam War was ending with a Congress hostle to the US-backed government in the South. Veterans were socially dislocated and looked upon with suspicion. The economy was suffering from having been government-controlled for years.

While he did not solve these problems, he lessened their impact. I believe that the pardon prevented him from being elected, and paved the way for the worst president of the 20th Century, who compounded all of these problems towards the end of the decade.

Had he won the 1976 election, we very well might have had a government much closer to what I espouse with balance between the three branches and no wild swings between the left and the right.

Since he was the last of the Liberal Republicans, the progressive movement in America that reached its peak in the mid-1970s might very well have attained the general acceptance that it missed and we could have had a much freer and more tolerant country today.

He will be missed.


Anonymous Felix Frankfurter said...

Not elected to any executive office, Ford pardoned a criminal, fell down some stairs, got shot at by two women, and lost the presidency to a peanut farmer from georgia.

At least he wasnt reagan, or bush, or the other bush. And he didnt get eaten by wolves, despite rumors. so go michigan, drive a ford.

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