I've been watching two funerals today. Gerald Ford's, which began this morning and will conclude tonight (I went out at about 11:50 and watched the plane carrying his casket-- usually it is one of two planes designated as Air Force 1 when the president uses it, but today it is called, 'special air mission 29000,') and James Brown's.
Ford's funeral (at least the departure from California) was as dignified as one would expect. Betty Ford was a picture of class. I've always wondered how the widows of some of our presidents are able to stand and watch through all the ceremony of a state funeral. But she did. And Betty Ford was certainly the classy lady that we've always seen, since she first came out and used her own trials with substance abuse and later with breast cancer to draw all of us into the discussions of those important topics.
James Brown's funeral, well, for most of it, it was like going to a James Brown concert. There were a number of performers and they got the whole room hopping. Watching M.C. Hammer dance (which to be honest I'd never seen him dance before) evoked Brown.
There was one moment which was poignant but in which someone made the wrong statement at the wrong time. Tomie Rae Brown (remember earlier this week I called her a Golddigger and my opinion of that hasn't changed) took a moment to look at him in the casket, then broke a flower off of one of the bouquets and threw it in there. Staged? Maybe, in fact probably. But then it was sad that some in the crowd began booing and yelling at her to get off the stage. To be honest, that was unnecessary. The legal case will go as it does. But James Brown was a classy man, whatever his problems may have been, and I don't think he would want anyone saying anything like that to the mother of his son, at his funeral.
There was another poignant moment a bit after that. Al Sharpton was speaking (and yes, it was a great speech.) At one point (and I am as directly as I can, quoting reverend Sharpton here-- and he is a man who I greatly admire) he said that he had a talk with James Brown, his friend of thirty-five years, just last week, the last time he saw him. And he said that James Brown told him to tell people, 'What happened to I'm black and I'm proud? Now we call each other ni****s and who***s and bit***s. Why? James Brown wants us to clean up the music.' Probably everyone who is anyone in the African-American music community was in that room, so it was a good message. And then he named Michael by name and invited him up to the stage, and Michael Jackson came up and spoke about how James Brown inspired him-- they still love him there (and let's remember that the jury in his trial a couple of years ago did vote to acquit him-- so he is no more a felon than you or I, and it seems that the people there recognize that and are more willing to forgive people for whatever their perceived tresspasses may have been.)
Now, I have a question for people reading this blog. Why is it that a few weeks ago we all admired how well the Amish were willing to forgive a man who was guilty (and it is admirable that they forgave him) but you probably won't hear anyone praising the black community for their willingness to accept someone like Michael Jackson who was tried and found not guilty? Is it a double standard?
And oh, yeah. Saddam Hussein was executed and will be buried tonight. And compared to Gerald Ford and James Brown his funeral is down at the bottom of the list.