Roy Exum: We Respect Our Dead

Tuesday, September 4, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Even now I have a hard time knowing whether my manners are Southern-taught or family-instilled. There is such a huge overlap and I dare to say I am well-versed in both. But I can go to either source and know what happened to Donald Trump at John McCain’s funeral was wrong in the eyes of God. It starts when you first begin going to funerals as the littlest kid. You are taught that a funeral is a sacred memorial to a human being and that person, recently passed, is all that matters.

It is a virtue that we have honored for thousands of years and, while today’s society seems eager to attack and obliterate what is best called “grace,” history is quite clear that the Spartan ephor Chilon of the 6th century BC, decreed in Latin, “de mortuis nil nisi bonum (say nothing of the dead but what is good)’.

My family was really strict about it. Never, ever, speak ill of the dead. There was a chance you’d get popped if you said something unkind about the deceased or his immediate family. And throughout the Bible you can find repeatedly, “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” (Proverbs) Or how about this one from Ephesians: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Any funeral is a premier ‘occasion,’ trust me.)

John McCain was hardly a saint. Please, all of us have our scars and flaws and shortcomings. But when McCain died, his life was most properly revealed as that of a genuine hero. Even the liberal media held off remembering his foils but there were others, quite tragically, who did not. I strongly believe that when a speaker defiles another person in public remarks at a funeral, it is the ultimate insult to the memory of the deceased.

For the McCain family to allegedly “uninvite” Trump and Sarah Palin is what I think triggered the classless acts and lack of decorum as a great statesman was laid to rest, and every barb tells far more about the family members still living than the best of John McCain. It was absolutely out of the realm of grace to use a church pulpit to slander and rebuke any other person, much less our Commander and Chief, Donald Trump.

There was McCain’s grieving daughter Meghan, her eulogy to her dad gloriously woven, up until she said, “He was a great man. We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing … not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice, those that live lives of comfort and privilege, while he suffered and served.”

Yes, this misguided mourner didn’t mention the President by name, but every soul in the know recognized the dig, and suddenly her words were not about her dad, but instead a reflection of the rancor in her heart. That, by the South’s standards, was an ugly reflection on a pitiful daughter rather than the man she most adored, the hero of the day.

She also said, quite pointedly, “We live in an era where we knock down old American heroes for all their imperfections. When no leader wants to admit to fault or failure,” and, with that, her words lost their power.

Former president Obama was what you might expect, his backhand revealed when he said, “So much of our politics, the public life, the public discourse, seems small, and mean, and petty,” he said. “Trafficking in bombast and insult, phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but is instead born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that, to be better than that.”

Personally, I would have hoped Obama would have – indeed -- been bigger and better. And, for the record, let me share the litmus test: Neither Meghan McCain or President Obama needed to say these things. I went back and read Meghan’s transcript and, if you’ll strike out the barbs, it was darn near the perfect eulogy by a daughter to her dad. Same with Obama – leave it out and the tribute stands with honor.

Kristi Hamrick, writing for Fox News over the weekend, had this: “There is a lack of courtesy and self-awareness on the parts of too many of the privileged who think that their politics are worthy of the time of the rest of us, no matter the setting.” She’s spot on, plus she gave us this: “(Whether) venting at narcissistic awards shows, or decking yourself in jewelry that makes a political point, the hijacking of a memorial service for personal political diatribes seemed a jarring note that rang false in what should have been a beautiful symphony celebrating a person lost to us.”

Are you kidding me? From life’s ‘Rule Book:’ “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12.

For a week it was hammered by the media lefties that Trump wasn’t invited and the liberal press even circulated a picture of Trump going to play golf during the funeral service. As if that doesn’t happen across America every day. Really, what’s wrong with that … but – can’t you see -- that wasn’t the message the national media wanted its public to perceive.

Only on the day of the funeral did People Magazine report that there seemed to be some conflict over the lack of an invitation. According to a close family source it was learned, “John had a feud with the president, and it got pretty intense, but I never heard anyone in the family say John banned Trump, and he never said that to me,” the source told PEOPLE. “John didn’t ban Trump. John could be spiteful, and he loved a good fight, but he wouldn’t do something like that.”

You’ver heard it all your life. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, so reads Ecclesiastes 3, “a time to weep and a time to laugh … a time to mourn and a time to dance … a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

This is what I choose to believe. Anytime you bury a good person – remember this -- you are meant to bury whatever is bad as well. What’s a shame it is that those who were taught better should abandon their manners and their personal values across John McCain’s casket. It never should have happened and – most importantly in candor -- bore virtually nothing for the common good.

* * *

* -- “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.” – James 1:26

* -- “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

* -- “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” – Proverbs 16:28

* -- “Save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” – Jude 1:23

* -- “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.” – Ecclesiastes 7:21-22.

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