It appears that the President of the United States will also forgo the proceedings in the Rotunda on Saturday in favor of staying at his ranch for another day.
Lest anyone think my displeasure is reserved exclusively for the Democratic LEADERSHIP (Note: The Republicans on the junket are not a part of the leadership in the Senate. Those in the comments from my last post who have demonstrated their towering ignorance by not being able to tell the difference between the Majority Leader of the Senate passing on this event and two relatively unknown GOP members skipping out might want to deepen their thinking faculties a bit.) anything I said about Reid above goes double for Bush.
Look, friends. Hearken to me.
A nation is an organism, a life form. And what animates this life form, what gives it the power to unite our people – so diverse, so different – are its traditions, myths and legends; in other words, the symbolic over the substantiative. The Constitution does a fine job in defining the powers of government. But its real power is in its iconic symbolism in which we have bound up all the hopes and dreams of our citizenry for a better life.
The United States is a very young country by any standard. We are so young, we really have no “myths” or “legends” per se. That’s because even our greatest mythic heroes like Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett left a written record behind along with friends and acquaintance who were able to tell biographers and historians what those two larger than life characters were all about. A “legend” is hardly legendary if we know that the myths surrounding the legend are untrue. And yet we continue to try and conjure up symbolic representations of our mythic heroes because it is through them that we like to see ourselves reflected in our national mirror.
And tied up in these efforts to create legends has been the dominant truth about American public life since George Washington; the presidency as a symbol of nationhood. We have no king, no royal family. Our continuity is the result of civil compact among all of us that the office of the presidency belongs to no man, no party; that it is the one aspect of public life in which we invest enormous power and place enormous trust in the occupant not to abuse that power. Hence, the presidency as a symbolic representation of us, the citizens of the United States imbues the occupant of that office with the status of civic god – especially after he is safely retired and unable to do any damage to our liberties.
I think Bush should be widely criticized for not attending every event related to the Ford funeral rites. The symbolic life of the nation demands that he attend and participate. I believe he and Reid’s failure to take part in the ceremonial, the tradition of laying to rest a former president and former Commander in Chief lessens the hold that office has on our emotional bonds with America – what Lincoln referred to as the “mystic chords of memory” – that allow us to rise above that which separates us and unite in common cause to remember a dead icon.
I fully expect the lefty commenters to belittle this rationalization. So be it. It is probably why in 50 years, long after I’m dust thank god, the way citizens feel about the United States will be unrecognizable to my generation.