Finley: Even funerals have become battlegrounds
On the same weekend of Aretha Franklin’s and John McCain’s funerals, we buried my aunt in the Rose of Sharon cemetery in Cumberland County, Ky.
The service was simple — a pair of eulogies from family members, some recorded hymns and a touching sermon delivered by the husband of her great-niece. We were on our way to the graveyard in 45 minutes.
It was just what was called for to memorialize a gracious woman of substance who lived her 93 years by the book she was raised on. No fanfare. No one mentioned her politics (she was a rock-ribbed Republican, by the way). And if she had any unfinished scores, no one tried to settle them. That’s not what funerals are for.
Though sparsely attended — when you’re that old, most of the people who would have come to your memorial have already had theirs — I believe she would have been quite satisfied.
McCain and Franklin should have had such a funeral. Instead, they were sent on their way with lavish spectacles that at times resembled a Hollywood awards ceremony or a political rally, or the back seat of a pink Cadillac.
Maybe it was the length of Franklin’s funeral — above 8 hours — that enabled its deterioration. But since the Queen of Soul was planted, no one is talking about her music or her absence, but rather the mess that was made of her send-off.
The first tweets suggesting things were going south centered on the “groping” of pop tart Ariana Grande by the temple’s pastor, the Bishop Charles Ellis. Video confirmed that during a hug, the bishop’s hand came close to touching some side boob. In his defense, Ellis might not have known where it was safe to rest his hand, given the scarcity of Grande’s dress.
He should have kept it in his pocket. And he should have kept his cringe-worthy witticism that Grande’s name sounded like a new Taco Bell menu item to himself.
Grande turned quickly from victim to vixen on social media, where she was scolded for not knowing you don’t shop at Frederick’s of Hollywood for an outfit to wear to a black church.
Then came the Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., who was called on to preach Franklin into heaven, but instead delivered a screed on the disintegration of black families that prompted the esteemed Stevie Wonder to shout from the dais: “Black Lives Matter!” Williams all but forgot to mention Aretha, much to her family’s offense.
Of course, there was the requisite bashing of President Donald Trump.
There was plenty of that, too, at McCain’s final going away party. The Arizona senator left specific instructions not to invite Trump to his funeral, but the speakers brought him there anyway with thinly veiled comparisons between McCain’s character and that of the president. It was uncomfortable to listen as Megan McCain picked up her father’s sword to press on with his feud.
What a sorry state we’ve fallen into when we turn cemeteries into battlegrounds, unable to call a truce in our cultural and political wars long enough to appropriately mourn our losses.
McCain and Franklin were icons of their worlds, but stripped down, they were no different from my aunt, human beings bidding farewell to this life and who deserved to pass into the next with funerals that were only about them.
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