Friday, December 7, 2018

We all got to accompany the Bush funeral train, whether desired or not

I happened to be spending the afternoon Thursday watching a grandparent and taking in one of her favorite television programs (It’s “Jeopardy,” by the way), so I got to see just how peeved she became when the popular game show was interrupted for special programming.
George Bush (the elder) being removed from funeral train. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
As in the live broadcast by ABC network news of the funeral train taking the casket containing the remains of former President George Bush (the elder) to College Station, Texas.

WHERE THE PRESIDENTIAL libraries for both Presidents Bush are located, and where George H.W. will have his casket laid to rest. People who are political geeks and fanatics of the Bush presidencies will forevermore be able to pay their respects with a visit to the Texas A&M University.

Similar, I suppose, to all those Elvis fanatics who stop by his gravesite whenever they visit Graceland.

Now I point out the grandmother disdain for Thursday’s interruption, because I wonder how many others felt similar thoughts.
Bush family on hand for the burial.
Seeing the broadcasts earlier in the week of the formal funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., was one thing. There may well have been people intrigued by the site of onetime Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole standing from his wheelchair to salute the presidential casket, although I was amused by how President Donald Trump’s very presence made so many feel uncomfortable.

BUT SEEING CONTINUED live broadcasting of the Bush death-related events just seemed like overkill.

Personally, I thought the sight of the funeral train working its way through Texas was weak, and its’ arrival in College Station was way too much.
The flag-draped presidential casket on board the funeral train.
It’s a good thing the Bush family did the actual burial in private, or else I’ve got to wonder if we literally would have been given the chance to see the casket lowered into the ground and sextons dumping dirt atop it for the burial.

There are some things I just question the value of, and perhaps it is the reason I still rely on newspapers (and their affiliated websites) for much of the reporting I read.

I DO HAVE to admit to getting something of a chuckle when I saw the ABC coverage of the funeral train proceedings anchored by George Stephanopoulos – the one-time political operative who, when working for Bill Clinton back in 1992, was a big part of the team that undid the George Bush presidency.

Would he ever back then have envisioned himself in such a public role watching over the Bush funeral? I suppose it’s the ultimate evidence that life isn’t pre-ordained in any role, and any outcome is possible.

But wouldn’t we have been equally, and adequately, informed if Thursday’s activities had been summarized into a minute-long report that was merely included in the network evening newscasts?

Seriously, I don’t remember as much hoopla over the deaths of Ronald Reagan in 2004 or Richard Nixon a decade earlier as we’ve seen this week for George H.W. Bush.

I ALSO EXPECT that when the time comes for Jimmy Carter (he turned 94 back in October), his eventual funeral ritual in Plains, Ga., will also be something simpler and more laid back.
One memory of 2005 World Series was seeing the Bushes in front-row seats watching the ballgames the White Sox played in Houston
Although I suspect things could have been more drawn out. Considering that George Bush was the first former president whose funeral rituals included a train ride since Dwight Eisenhower in 1969, it also made me think of the first president to get such treatment.

As in Abraham Lincoln, whose death in 1865 resulted in a two-week trip to take the body back from Washington to Springfield, Ill. – where he remains interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery to this day.

Modern technology reduced the train trip to a single day. Just envision if it had been a weeks-long event with multiple stops along the way (as was done for Lincoln, who once served as an attorney for the Illinois Central railroad). We’d probably have all the people who didn’t vote for Bush for president back in 1988 and in 1992 rising up in great anger at the very sight.


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