Thursday, January 20, 2011

"It Ain't A Democrat Thing Or A Republican Thing"

Seven-plus years ago - during a period of time that some people refer to lovingly as "The Summer of Bruce" (and now a bit sadly at the thought that it was so long ago already) - during every concert Mr. Springsteen strode forward to stage center and gave what he referred to as "the nightly PSA". Way back when in the Summer of 2003, we the people of the United States of America had only recently committed several hundred thousand of our fighting men and women to Iraq. That deployment - following as it did on the heels of the deployment of thousands of fighting men and women to Afghanistan - committed a lot of men and women of varying age, ethnicity, religion and political affiliation - to fighting on foreign soil under one flag.

Subtlety in expression of his political beliefs has never been one of Springsteen's strong suits. If you are perhaps unfamiliar with his history of expressing what he feels, which I assure you is a long one, then run a Google search for his November 5, 1980 concert. It was a show performed in Tempe, Arizona. It was a show on The River tour that he and the E Street Band played the night after Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. In his introduction to "Badlands" he expressed his sentiments about the results of that election. Skip the Google search. Click here instead.

Anyway, the "PSA" during the summer stadium leg of The Rising tour centered upon his skepticism over certain of the the Bush Administration's claims concerning Saddam Hussein. While his criticism was directed squarely at the President, his point (or point of view) was broader. It was that throughout American history our Presidents have occasionally taken it upon themselves to massage information in an effort to sway public opinion and that it is our fundamental duty as American citizens to be willing to make informed choices and not simply act upon blind faith. It is our duty - said Mr. Springsteen - and it is not a duty grounded in politics. It is neither a Democrat thing nor a Republican thing. It is an American thing.

Benjamin Moore was a 23 year young U.S. Army Private when - on January 12 - he was killed in action in Afghanistan. Private Moore was apparently in a truck that struck an improvised explosive device. Private Moore was a Jersey boy. On Saturday his family shall lay him to rest in Bordentown. Given that this funeral shall be a military funeral, it has caught the interest of the Unrighteous Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist band of idiots. Phelps has decreed that his crew intends to be present at Private Moore's funeral. In the event that you have not yet been exposed to Mr. Phelps and the cretins who populate his flock, they are an anti-gay group that travels the country picketing military funerals. They believe military deaths are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality.

I know no member of the Moore family. Other than knowing that it is located somewhere between Trenton and Delaware I know nothing else about Bordentown. Neither of those things is relevant here. Neither is the fact that Reverend Phelps and his followers are despicable, deplorable human beings. Neither - candidly - is the fact that people such as Benjamin Moore may in fact have volunteered to serve in this nation's armed forces to protect individual freedoms, such as freedom of speech........including the freedom to assemble and to protest.

What is relevant is that this Saturday is not about Phelps, his followers or their individual freedoms. It is about the Moore family. It is about them having a final opportunity to say goodbye to a son and a brother far sooner than they could have ever anticipated having to and having that opportunity to say their farewells - to their boy - in an atmosphere of solemnity appropriate to the day.

A funeral is not a circus. Standing up and standing fast against Phelps and his Misery Makers and their efforts to turn military funerals, including that of Private Moore, into some sort of carnival sideshow is not a Democrat thing nor a Republican thing. It is an American thing.

And it is the right thing to in the land of hope and dreams.


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