Friday, June 11, 2004

Reflections on Reagan
I stridently avoid any hint of canonization at funerals. The reality of the matter of death is that the death of a person is the death of a sinner needing redemption, no matter how good he was. (Notice the issue of the passing of the Blessed Virgin Mary was the passing of one already redeemed beforehand by special grace from God.) So, please don't take these words as a canonization. I do find it interesting however that Reagan's funeral coincides with a certain selection in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Office of Readings for St. Barnabas, which begins: "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." How many times have we heard that phrase this week? How many times have we been reminded that it was a motto of sorts for Reagan's optimism for our country?

It seems to me, with the death of Ronald Reagan we have the passing of a genuinely decent gentleman. As I watched the extensive coverage and saw images of him from the past, I couldn't help but recall my maternal grandfather (the only one I ever knew). That generation of people born in the early 1900's certainly seemed to produce some fine moral character. Reagan was credited with it. I know my grandfather possessed it. Of course, that generation had its share of evil too. I pray history may eventually look back on my generation and note it more for its good moral character than a deficiency thereof; though, I fear much work must be done before that can happen.

The pageantry surrounding the funeral rites was majestic, beautiful, and moving. Seeing so many of the world's leaders, current and past, gathered in a House of God, singing hymns of faith really inspired me and made me hope that the conversion of each of them continues on course, as it must for me too. For some reason, I was really intrigued by the images of world leaders contemporary with Reagan as they stood near his coffin lying in state in the Capitol rotunda. They most suredly thought back to the days Reagan walked the earth with them. Did they recall high level meetings, tense diplomacy, and former power? Facing his coffin, did they wonder what it all amounted to, how it would be judged by history and, more importantly, by God? Did they think of the day, no doubt coming soon, when they would be placed inside a coffin? The tributes to Reagan and to Nancy were quite dear. I thought the current President Bush did a fine job with his eulogy.

I have really felt drawn to watch the many events surrounding America's farewell to President Reagan. I don't know why. It doesn't feel like I am glued to the TV simply because it is "an historic moment". I don't think I am watching just to take note of the intricacies of State funerals. I wasn't very politically aware during Reagan's presidency, so I don't think I am watching due to any party nostalgia. But I am drawn. Perhaps it is because his presidency was at a time when I was just beginning to take a bit more note of politics (I was starting high school at the end of his terms). It was a time that seemed more simple than today. A time when I could still fairly safely be naive. A time I wish, in many ways, would return but cannot. The "why" of this week's hold on me remains a mystery. And maybe your experience of this week is the same, though perhaps for different reasons.

I have also marveled at the ability of a public figure to make such seemingly personal connections with ordinary people he never actually met. Seeing the many faces of citizens weeping along Constitution Avenue and among the crowds at the airports made me ask, how? How does a public figure do that? What is it about a personality, a charisma, that can elicit such strong emotional reactions from strangers? And is it really the figure of Reagan and his passing that is responsible for those reactions, or is it more an emotional reaction in honor of Nancy and those President Reagan leaves behind? A curious matter.

Oh, and to lighten the mood a bit, no offense intended to the Navy, but I think it really got the short end of the stick when it comes to cool uniforms!

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