Thursday, September 01, 2005

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

True confession time: I'm a West Wing junky. After watching every re-run for the 20th time, I turn to Pam and say "Best show on TV." For many reasons I (emotionally) feel this to be true. I love Martin Sheen as President Bartlet, and while I think the writing isn't quite what it used to be, under Aaron Sorkin it sparkled.

I just watched for the zillionth time "In Excelcis Deo" from the first season. Primary plot line is Toby Zeigler gets involved with the death of a homeless Korean War vet, and arranges a formal military funeral for him.

I'm a life-long pacifist. I frankly hate everything about military life and culture except this: The military exists to defend our country. This truly is covered by the hoary maxim: It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.

Having said this, the end of this episode moves me greatly. Toby, Ms. Landingham, the vet's brother and the Marine color guard are most of the attendees. Watching the Marines carefully and precisely fold the flag after the 21 gun salute is terribly emotional. The precision and care in the process, and the way they actually caress the flag while folding it, seems to be an act of real connection with the moment. I can easily imagine them caring, and mourning, for a fallen brother, no matter that he fought in a different battle.

If GWBush felt one bit of human connection with the soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq, he would go to a funeral. He would fold the flag, and present it to the next of kin. He would wince at the violent noise of the 21 gun salute. And he would actually try to bring the rest of the soldiers home.

Instead he plays guitar while New Orleans drowns, and says "stay the course."