I live about 40 miles south of Boston Strong where, in the days leading up to this year's Boston Marathon, the memorial never stops, the sports-themed tributes get louder, the t-shirts grow more defiant and where no politician can stay away from the grief long enough to wipe the solemnity off his/her greedy little snout.
I live in vigil nation, where we orchestrate the living hell out of every death, where we throw the word "hero" around like a drunk throwing a nickel tip at a bartender.
"Boston Strong," we chant in the beer-soaked confines of the ballpark, where they're holding a "special night" for the victims, including the national anthem sung by a state trooper and a mumbled tribute to the victims from some barely literate baseballist who'd cheerfully go play ball in some other city if they'd give him an extra $1 million a year and a VIP pass to the local strip club.
As the notes of "Amazing Grace," played by the obligatory lone bagpiper, fade away in the ballpark dusk, we head to the concession stand for a plate of $18 cardboard nachos.
Police funerals get bigger very year. Firefighter funerals have come to resemble Fourth of July parades as we confusedly construct bigger, more patriotic rituals, all of them resulting in increased T-shirt sales. If you're in the army and you die when you fall down a flight of stairs in the Fort Polk post exchange, your hometown throws you a military funeral that looks like the victory parades America used to throw when our wars resulted in clear victories.
As a reporter, I've covered military funerals. I've covered police funerals. I try to be unobtrusive. I take notes when the mayor/general/minister speaks. I stay out of the photographer's way. When there's nothing to write down, I say the "Hail Mary" to myself. I do not buy the T-shirt or the bumper sticker. What the hell would I do with either one of those tacky little souvenirs of death?
I believe a death, however it occurs, belongs to silence and dignity and the immediate family and God and the soul that seems to hover so near. I don't believe death is a halftime show. A mother weeping over her child makes your breath come uneven. A stadium full of sports fans "mourning" until the game starts does not.
If this were a strong nation, strong in mind and strong in faith, we would not be so in love with death, so constantly needing to "pay tribute to our heroes," so hungry for the notes of "Taps" dying away in the air, so distracted by foolishness that we cannot tell the difference between a funeral and a twi-night doubleheader at the old ballyard.
"Let the dead bury their own dead," Jesus said.
I have never seen that quote on a T-shirt.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. A collection of Dion's Pultizer Prize-nominated columns, "Between Wealth and Welfare: A Liberal Curmudgeon in America," is available on Amazon.com.
COPYRIGHT 2014 BY CREATORS.COM