Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Maintaining Sacred Space at Arlington

Watch a member of "The Old Guard" get a bayonet through his foot while changing the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.  Here's the story.  There's a grimace, and there's blood showing on his boot.  And that's it.

What discipline.

What dedication.

What an amazing thing that we, as Americans, receive such performance -- freely given! -- from a young man dedicated to our defense.

How disturbing that many of us don't deserve it -- and have no idea how to return even the most basic respect to troops like that.

Here's a comment I wrote last year on Facebook after a visit to Arlington National Cemetery.  It was made on the Facebook announcement of this post about Colin Kaepernick on Stonekettle Station by Jim Wright:

I visited Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) recently. Within a few feet of entering the gate, I heard young men (high school students, I would guess) skirmishing and tussling behind me, and I asked them (rather sharply, I'm afraid) to settle down and quiet down and remember that this was a cemetery not a locker room, and that it was as close to hallowed ground as our system allowed us to create. They shut up, and one muttered an apology.

Ten minutes later, leaving the Info Center, as Roosevelt Drive turned off and the road became Eisenhower Drive, I saw a cassion approaching, with full honor guard marching behind it. I got off the road, to the left of the sidewalk, and waited, attentive (not at attention -- I'm not a veteran, and I know the difference) and removed my hat as it approached. I got a nod from the NCOIC of the detail, which amazed me, until I turned to watch the cassion pass, and saw that there were a half dozen people IN THE ROAD with their cell phone cameras up, plus a couple of dozen more on the sidewalk and blocking Roosevelt going up the hill. Every last one had a cell phone up, most of them had hats on, and, as I said, a half dozen were standing in the road in front of the cassion. Before it had to stop, the docents got them out of the way and told the crowd that filming, especially from the road, was disrespectful (at least that's what I assume they said, because the phones came down) and reminded them to remove their hats.

I couldn't believe it. They had to almost physically remove one kid from the road. And they never did get his baseball cap off him.

At Arlington.

I agree with Jim (like that matters -- he's way more entitled to talk about this than I am) that we arent Romans, or Spartans, or even Watusi (thank you, Bill Murray), but these people buried here, they or their family went when we said "go", and they came back (if they came back) burdened with what we had them do in our names.

And we should damn well have the common decency to remove our hats, get the hell out of the way of their bodies, and have some goddamned RESPECT for them at their final resting place.

And since we're going to honor them, let's do so by remembering the ideals for which they fought, which include everyone's right to protest injustice.

Even NFL players.
I don't know what we need to do to make it clear to (especially young) Americans just how special a place Arlington National Cemetery is.  But I think we need to figure that out.