I watched some of President Reagan’s funeral procession and then most of the memorial service in the Capital rotunda. Despite my increasingly apolitical tendencies, I’m still pretty interested in these historical moments. I’m one of those guys who buys newspapers and magazines when real history happens. I tape things like state funerals and Michael Jordan’s retirement press conference(s). I have some stuff that I think I’ll be glad I have down the road — tape from the first day of the first Gulf War, magazines from McGuire and Sosa’s dramatic race to break Maris’s record, newspapers from all over the world after 9/11 and hours of tape from that day. I even inherited a pretty amazing original newspaper covering the second continental congress when we lost Amy’s Dad a few years ago. Some people have no use for this stuff, and that’s fine. I like it.
Anyway, I’ve already heard some people complaining about the excessive coverage of Reagan’s death. Everything gets covered excessively these days, but I welcome the change from the daily blah of Bush/Kerry non-happenings and tragic reports from the Middle East. You can like or dislike Reagan’s politics, but there’s not much disputing that he possessed something that none of today’s players do. He had a presence, and people trusted him. Most people felt good about him being the guy, even if they didn’t vote for him. Some of his approval ratings were absurd they were so high, even among Democrats. For me and folks about my age, Reagan dominates our memories of becoming acquainted with the ceremony and public face of American democracy. I vaguely remember Carter, which I think is pretty impressive since I was five in 1980. Yeah, I’m like that (but no, I didn’t save any papers from Reagan’s first election).
This is also interesting to me because this is the first state funeral for a President since LBJ died in ’73 (I was born in ’75). Nixon died in ’94 (and yeah, I have his funeral on tape too), but he didn’t get the full treatment for obvious reasons. All the living presidents showed up for that one, but the show went down out in Yorba Linda. This is history, folks. Give it five minutes.
All that said, there’s always reason to raise an eyebrow or two and laugh a little when these self-important events unfold. At the conclusion of tonight’s ceremony, the Senate chaplain, Barry Black, offered a prayer that included the following phrase: “…[Reagan] lifted the lamp of liberty to topple totalitarian towers.”
But it makes sense when you read about Barry Black. He has three Master’s degrees and two doctorates. That’s five post-graduate degrees, if anyone’s keeping score. That’s a lot of education, which I guess makes your prayers sound, well, really educated. Oh, and there’s this — Barry Black is married to Brenda Black, and their three sons are Barry Black II, Brendan Black, and Bradford Black.