Sunday, December 31, 2006

December 30, 2006

What an odd day in history yesterday. As I mostly lounged around with the television on, I was struck by the contrast of lives that were talked about most of the day. The barbaric hanging of a deposed dictator, the decorated funeral service of an esteemed statesman, and the jubilant celebration of a cultural icon's life. All three lives were very influential in their own way and all dealt with quite differently in death.

I found myself grossly intrigued by the footage of Saddam's hanging. In this day and age, it seems a very crude and inhumane form of capital punishment. But like any grotesque crime scene or traffic accident, it's hard to turn away. It raised in my mind the whole debate of capital punishment itself and whether the purpose is retribution for the many heinous and barbaric acts committed under his regime, or prevention. Clearly, the purpose here was retribution since he was pulled out of power a couple years ago and not likely to rule again, ever. But only the true Judge will see to it that he gets what is truly deserved. There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam deserved what he got ("thou shalt give life for life"), and yet, I felt compassion for the meek man who humbly submitted to the ultimate punishment. He seemed a much different person than the one who brutally murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people. "Seemed" is probably the operative word.

It was comforting then to watch the service and the eulogies spoken for President Ford, a truly humble servant, proof that living a good life is possible. I think I learned more about Ford in his death than I ever knew about him in life. Funny, I don't even remember Chevy Chase's impersonations. Such is the nature of the good man, I think...quiet in his success.

In stark contrast to quiet success, we had the life of James Brown, 100% showman. His funeral, like his life, was full of performances. It was a mostly jubilant occasion populated by the likes of Al Sharpton (who spoke of the "Brownization" of our culture), Rev. Jesse Jackson, Michael Jackson (who spoke of being "amesmerized" by the Godfather of Soul), and a woman who "claims to be" Mr. Brown's wife. This group was a "little" more liberal than the attendees at President Ford's service. The news media spent an excessive amount of time and energy discussing whether or not Michael's appearance was mostly self-serving, being his first public appearance since being acquitted of child molestation charges. I'm no fan of Michael, but it seems natural that he might appear at such an event...just let him be. So it seemed Mr. Brown left life much as he lived it.

I don't know what to make of all this, but at the end of the day, I was left wondering how each of these people expected their funeral to play out and if it met with their expectations. And then I thought about my own life and how, like so many others, my own funeral will not play out on international television. And yet, in my own way, I hope to make a difference. All of this in the context of thinking about accomplishments and failures of 2006 and goals for 2007. Time marches on.

Happy New Year!!


At 2:43 PM, December 31, 2006, Blogger Foo said...

No need for me to expound on what you've so aptly expressed regarding Mr. Ford, so I won't.

I didn't see any of the execution footage, probably because we were on the road all day yesterday; but Hussein's request to be executed by firing squad because hanging was too demeaning struck me as all the more reason to hang him. I'm sure the citizens he slaughtered didn't consider their end to be honorable either.

Finally, we'd like to wish you a belated Merry Christmas. :)

At 3:30 PM, December 31, 2006, Blogger sgazzetti said...


While Saddam richly deserved what he got, I feel that he deserved yet more richly to sit endlessly in ill-administrated prisons through all his natural days, and if a maker were to judge him, let that judging await a natural death. If no other case is going to do it, I guess this is the one that points out to me that I am against executions on principle.

I not only remember Chevy Chase's impressions, I recall with mirth Dana Carvey as Dan Rather reporting Ford's death in 1996: "...tragically eaten by wolves..." et extensive cetera (YouTube can surely help out here if anyone is interested). A decent man and a politician of a bipartisan sort we are unlikely to see again soon.

I wasn't surprised to hear of James Brown's passing; he was SO hard-working. Some would say the hardest.

As to our own media-free passings: nearly exactly one year ago today I was at my father's funeral, and was oddly struck by both how trivial and important it all was. So it is, ultimately, for all of us, I suppose.

At 8:08 PM, December 31, 2006, Blogger Gwynne said...

Thank you, Foo. Merry belated Christmas to you and Turtle as well!

I agree that Saddam deserves no honor in death. I was surprised to feel sorry for the man in his final moments.

And like you say, Sgazzetti, there is almost no doubt that living under deplorable conditions is probably more punishing than death. And yet, in my opinion, death remains the right measure of justice in a case as extreme as this. It not only serves as retribution, but sends a strong message to his successors. I'm only sorry it took so long.

I do remember that "tragically eaten by wolves" bit (gotta love Dana Carvey)...but forgot that Ford was the victim. 8-}

"Trivial and important"...true that.

At 1:07 AM, January 01, 2007, Blogger Janie said...

Happy, blessed New Year, Gwynne!

At 2:33 PM, January 01, 2007, Blogger Badoozie said...

hey, happy new year to you!


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