Sunday, August 16, 2009



You may have noticed the newsphotos of Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s funeral.

There is one * (I haven’t got the skill to reproduce it here, and I’m not sure it’s OK to do so) taken from the street as the casket is carried out of the church and down the steps after the service.
Having done a stint in a funeral home to earn some money as a kid in a galaxy long ago and far away, it caught my eye.

The casket is surrounded by folks, way too many to efficiently carry and maneuver it while keeping it level. Keeping the casket level is not only aesthetically pleasing and a badge of professionalism for the funeral director, but it also means that you stand a much better chance of not dropping it to the ground in the face of the family and friends of the deceased. So keeping the casket steady and level is an important professional task, a ‘mission’ if you will, that needs to be performed.

There are some adults, strong enough to carry the box (which, essentially , is what a casket is) by gripping its handles, along the sides and at either end. But there are clearly a bunch of younger folk who probably aren’t physically suited to the task, especially if it’s much desired that the box be kept level at all times.

But in the photo We are treated to something else.

The casket is already seriously and ominously tilted to the viewer’s left; a ship in this condition would be described as ‘hard down by the starboard bow’.

At precisely the front right-hand grasp-point of the casket, there is a female, youngish but still out of her teens. Her hands can’t be seen – the casket is already tilting so much that it obscures them. But she herself cuts an interesting figure: whereas the adults are concentrating on the next step (down the stairs) and trying to keep themselves and the casket balanced, she is looking off to her own right, out of frame of the photo, and smiling one of those ‘People’ magazine smiles that celebs instantly create when they are about to have their picture taken. The task at hand in regard to the casket and keeping it level and all that … seems not to be on her mind at all.

And of course, the problem she has created in the physics of carrying the casket at the level is affecting the young folk, and placing that much more strain – physically and otherwise – on the adults who are actually trying to carry the thing right.

I get the idea that she was standing around when some ‘soft news’ photo-snapper – and almost all of them are nowadays – had yelled to her to grab the box, figuring it would be nice ‘symbolism’ and make a great – and greatly marketable – shot. On top of the symbolism of all the young Kennedy grand-and-great-grandkids crowding around.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one speaks directly to Our present national situation.

The actual tasks that produce achievement in any field of endeavor are being ignored in favor of a feel-good symbolism. And a symbolism that precisely preaches that the old focus on achieving tasks is ‘quaint’ and ‘industrial age’. Perhaps even ‘regressive’. As opposed to ‘progressive’.

It is a symbolism that is the private treasure of those elites who ‘get it’, and is designed to – hopefully, dahlings – educate the great unwashed of a quainter era that there is a new Order in the country.

As if Joe and Jane Q. Public didn’t already realize that there is a new Order now. And that it isn’t working. Indeed, just the opposite.


*The hyperlink is to the article, but there is a related option on that page to view photos of the funeral.

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