I wish I could put my finger on just precisely what it is that makes the clip of Bob Dole standing, being stood up really, and left-handedly saluting George H.W. Bush’s casket so deeply moving. The left handed salute, reflecting Dole’s WWII injury, is certainly part of it. Bush’s equally heroic war time record contributes. As Chris Matthews properly described, their political battles feed into it. Perhaps it is the sheer overwhelming effort on Sen. Dole’s part to pay his respects. Whatever it is, it is something very deep. It is a heartfelt, soul-stirring nostalgia – a longing for a better America that seems not to exist anymore save for old-guy anachronisms like Dole and Bush.
I have had a similar reaction only one other time in my life. On the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing I spent the entire day watching PBS replay the news reports of the journey in a 10-hour (if I recall correctly) “condensed” presentation. That journey concluded when then President Nixon greeted the astronauts aboard to USS Hornet, in front of the entire world watching on TV. He began his greeting by asking the ship’s chaplain to pray – out loud – to God Almighty. America was not then afraid to show that it believed, and not only believed but felt thanking God was the first priority, even when confronted with POTUS and something as momentous as man’s first extra-terrestrial steps. I cried longing for that day to return.
Heroism and humility – service, sacrifice and honor – these things seem in very short supply in our world. And when they do show themselves, there is some *&^% fool, usually a bunch of *&^% fools, on Twitter or elsewhere in social media that steps right in and belittles it, makes fun of it, and does everything in their power to make the moment about their own *&^% fool selves. That people are selfish and self-aggrandizing has been true throughout history, but social media has empowered them to be so in a fashion that robs the good and the transcendent. No longer are such voices relegated to the dark corners of the world, like the corrupted Gollum living in a cave. Social media gives them the light of day, a spotlight even – rewarding the malformed, corrupted creature for their very corruption. And again, I long for a better day.
It has been reasonably written in recent days that we “over-honor” our dead presidents. If you look to the individual office holder then there may be a point to that contention. However, we honor far more than simply the office holder, worthy though they are, on a day like today. We honor the office; we honor the institution the office represents, and most importantly we honor the ideals upon which that institution was formed and that have in fact, because there is no other way to put it, made it great. Those things it is simply impossible to “over-honor.”
Take some time today and pay your respects – give honor where honor is due.