Thursday, December 09, 2004

What Would Marcus Aurelius Do?

Today in New York City, there was a funeral for the first NYC firefighter to be killed in Iraq. It was a lavish affair. His flag-draped coffin was carried by a fire engine festooned in black and purple. Thousands of firefighters attended. As did the mayor. And the former mayor. And the governor. And the junior senator. Bagpipes played. Maudlin songs were sung.

Of course, it’s sad when anyone dies, especially when they leave behind a pregnant wife and two children. But I wonder if, when the second NYC firefighter is killed, will he or she be afforded an equally luxurious tribute?

Not long ago, the sight of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq was absent from our media outlets. Equally scarce, then as now, are stories of the wounded, and their treatment in VA hospitals.

A similar outpouring happened after 9-11. Tears were shed. Martyrs were eulogized. Heroes were sainted. Grounds were hallowed. Money was raised. Lots of money was raised.

And that seems to be the way we handle things in America. We’re ready at the drop of a hanky to make a tear-jerker movie out of our losses. “Thou shalt not have died in vain,” we cry. Suffering in quiet dignity isn't enough; we must be seen to suffer in quiet dignity. Our entertainment channels bring us the real world; our news media bring us an
imitation of life.

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