Thursday, November 03, 2005

Remembering Rosa

You know, I haven't seen anything in these parts over the last week and a half about Rosa Parks.

I'm just saying. It's been a major story in the country -- Ellen DeGeneres left a seat in the front row of her audience empty the other day, and similar tributes were mounted on buses across the nation -- but nothing from many, if not any, of us, from the bishops, from our pulpits, nothing.

It's a valid question: Why? Or, rather, why not?

Going through the news, her funeral yesterday -- the third service in four days -- lasted for eight hours. Wow. Could you imagine a Mass of Christian Burial going that long? Anyone interested can find video clips here. Clintons both, Sharpton, Obama, Jesse, Aretha, everyone was there.

Even Farrakhan got a speaking part.

I've always had a place in my heart for the Black Church. Simply put, they know how to do faith in action in a way that makes those Faithful Conservative Catholics, to use Mark's expression, salivate. They only wish they could deliver the Republican message in as compelling and relevant a way as the Black Church does for the Dems.

But that's kinda tough when guns, poor government services and class polarization are the essence of the White Church's platform. It's an uphill climb, so they have to bring homophobia, fatwas and Roe into the equation to get votes. So honest. So just. So Christian.

Predictably, the speeches at the Parks funeral got political, and heavily so -- this was a woman who, after all, fought a political battle as a woman of genuine faith and serene conviction.

Al Sharpton, who referred to the late civil rights warrior as "the Mother of the Nation," brought the crowd to his feet in the midst of a meditation on the new, covert racism with a chiding of, "When you have a nation respond, looking for weapons in Iraq that are not there, but can't see a hurricane in Louisiana that is there."

Great line.

This got me to thinking about the distinction between symbolism (the speeches) and substance (Rosa Parks not moving from the front of the bus), and I was reminded, tangentially, of the most surreal political speech I've ever heard delivered, the essence of an attempt at substance gone horrifically symbolic. And, ergo, hollow.

Some of you may remember the tribute given by Rick Kahn, a friend of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, at Wellstone's memorial service after he, his wife, and several campaign aides died in a plane crash three weeks before Wellstone was to stand for reelection in 2002.

Before that speech, Kahn was known to one and all as a mild-mannered accountant. But his eulogy basically drew this line of rhetoric: because Paul Wellstone died in a freak accident in Brainerd, everyone has to vote Democratic on Election Day. It was the definition of exploitation, misplaced grief and manipulative excess, and as I was listening to it live in my apartment, I immediately knew that it was the best thing that ever happened to Norm Coleman, who went on to win election. But I still love that speech because it was the most outrageous thing I've ever heard, until recently.

I hear echoes of Rick Kahn every time the argument gets drawn out that, because we had a sex-abuse scandal, the celibate gays have to go. The two arguments both make no sense and are an insult to rational people.

But that's America. God bless it.

-30-

3 Comments:

Blogger Gyrovagus said...

"When you have a nation respond, looking for weapons in Iraq that are not there, but can't see a hurricane in Louisiana that is there."

Great line?

Al Sharpton (by the way, what Church, pray tell, declared him a "Reverend") is a media whore, Rocco.

And his "great line" is bullshit, pure and simple.

Of course, couldn't resist the Iraq-Katrina link, could he?

Listen, as a white man with a very limited income who made what was, for me, a sacrificial gift to the Red Cross Katrina Fund, only to find out that here in Kennedy Country (speaking of whores, media and otherwise), the recipients of Red Cross funds were busing over to the local "packie" to buy their booze with their Red Cross money, I say again: Sharpton's full of shit.

The next time there's a disaster, especially in a place that has benefitted as New Orleans and Louisiana so obviously has from enlighted Democratic leadership for a couple of generations, Sharpton and his buddies, who have considerably more cash than I, can donate to the Red Cross Victims' Alcoholic Binge Fund.

I'll send all my money to the Humane Society to take care of the animals, who were clearly the most innocent of the victims down in The Big Easy (Easy Livin' on the Donation of Soft-Hearted, Soft-Headed Suckers Like Me).

3/11/05 08:10  
Blogger patrick said...

I want to know why the highly politicized funeral orations at Rosa Parks funeral are wonderful, but politicized sermons by Tom DeLay is a Great Threat to American Democracy that Must Be Stopped.

3/11/05 09:50  
Blogger John Hearn said...

Patrick,

If ya have ta ask, yu'll never know!

3/11/05 19:18  

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