In watching the television coverage this past weekend of Senator Ted Kennedy's funeral mass and interment I realized, again, that the military and the Catholic Church are, together,the sine qua non where it concerns the rituals satisfying our expectations of end-of-life ceremonies. The solemnity of the Mass and the precision of the military's honor guard and burial detail are without equal.
Catholicism -- being a religion centered on death and "resurrection" -- has had twenty centuries to fine-tune this process. The military -- also a death-centered operation -- understands the absolute necessity of assuring relatives of the dead soldier that the death is honored, that it served a greater, even noble, purpose, even though that assurance is a lie.
In truth, soldiers die for the greater glory and profit of Corporate America and have done so for decades. Young people die so that older people can maintain wealth and power. This is, of course, a given that is never talked about in the recruiter's office or when the folded flag is presented graveside to the dead soldier's next of kin. That much truth would be considered an abomination.
Still, in certain instances, such as the death of a person like Ted Kennedy the funeral rituals of both Church and State are combined in a manner that tries -- successfully to the religious believer -- to negate death as an ending and convert it to merely a transition, if not a completely new beginning. And, to those of us who are not "believers" the ceremonies are sad, reflective and, yes, powerful.
Watching and listening to young Kennedy family members as they spoke of their father's -- their grandfather's -- love and devotion to each of them was tender and deeply moving. As I watched -- and dealt with my own tears -- I couldn't help but be aware that even as these ceremonies were progressing, there were right-wing thugs composing yet even more hate-filled rhetoric that would be used against not just the now dead Ted Kennedy but against any person who spoke in favor of concern for those Jesus declared to be his brothers -- the sick, the hungry, the naked, the poor. And, right-wing thugs are now ascendant in this torn and ending empire. Fascism is indeed arriving in the United States and the destruction of the memory of men and women who spoke out against injustice is an absolute requirement for its success, because fascism mocks compassion and truth.
Ted Kennedy's life was extraordinary -- filled with both flaws and strengths. His death closes yet another door that might have led to what the Framers saw as a possibility and what the newly emerging Fascists see as an obstacle: the hope of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Resquiescat in pace, Senator Kennedy.