Thursday, June 10, 2004

The State Funeral

Last night I watched all of the state funeral for President Reagan. Twice. (I taped it so Mary could see it when she got home.) Many things impressed. Among them was Vice-President Cheney's eloquence; I had no idea he spoke that well. And in an interview afteward with Peggy Noonan, I was surprised once again at how spontaneously eloquent she is. No wonder her polished speeches are so good.

But chiefly I was reflecting once again how well the military peform, for want of a better word, "liturgy". Seriousness, formality, decorum, solemnity, a sense of the importance of the occasion; all of these made the ceremony so moving. Not to mention a minutely detailed ritual. In the context of starched dress uniforms and solemn music, Mrs. Reagan's gentle pat on the coffin was so moving. What a contrast to so many funerals (and other ceremonies) in which the clergy of many denominations do their laughin'-and-scratchin' best to jolly things up and "break through the artificial formality". It usually trivializes the death involved and results in a sentimentally meaningless hour or so. But how emotionally powerful was the state funeral by comparison so many modern religious ones.

Someone shoud send a tape to the CDW to remind them of the spirit in which things should be done. The rubrics are usually more important than the words.

One more essay on President Reagan, this time from the also very eloquent Mark Steyn.