Sunday, September 16, 2007

What Matters

I am playing for the funeral of a young man who was killed in Iraq on Thursday. I've been talking with his mother to work out the songs. We were on the phone and she asked if I would play "God Bless America."

I'm glad we were on the phone so she couldn't see the pain on my face as I said "Certainly ma'am, what ever you want."

I do this because it is something I can do. I know that it has a benefit, both to the family of the young man, and, according to the Command Sergeant Major, on the honor gaurd, when they know that I myself served and am willing to do this out of respect for the fallen and my own sense of duty and honor.

Robert E. Lee once wrote either in a letter or his journal (I'm thinking it was his journal kept while in West Point but I'm too damned lazy to look it up) that

Duty is the sublimest word in the English language.

I will do my duty. To this young man's memory, to his comrades, to his family and certainly to myself.

His mother will never know how hard it is for me to do this. She will only know that she asked me to do something and I said "Of course."



Blogger Sherry said...

you are a good man.
she is burying her child.

that is a thing that should never have to happen.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous blackdog said...

One of my favorite lines is from Chief Dan George in "Little Man".

He says to his grandson "your spirit soars like a hawk".

Well guess what, MB. So does yours. I can only hope that many others are as touched as I. You do a great service to humanity.

I can never forget you.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

His mother will never know how hard it is for me to do this. She will only know that she asked me to do something and I said "Of course."

I don't know enough about Lee to know whether he romanticized the ideal of "duty" or not, but in any case, even if he did, "doing one's duty" can indeed be sublime, divine even.

After all, there are all those gods (including Jesus) who in the course of "doing their duty" died..........

Welcome to being one with the gods...................

- oddjob

8:00 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i think lee was more than a wee bit of a romantic. his uncle richard henry lee, and his father "lighthorse" harry lee were both larger than life swashbuckling figures who moved with equal grace in the halls of congress, courts of law, the field of honor, the battlefield, and backwoods taverns.

when lee talked of duty he talked about doing things that weren't what you wanted to do, yet, they must be done. lee was no supporter of either seccession or slavery, but when his state, against his writing and orations withdrew from the union and declared war he answered their call. at first he simply refused winfield scott's offer of supreme command of the union army, and resigned. he went home to his farm and tried to stay out of it. he was brought, first into a staff job, but later into a field command only by the neccessity of what he felt was a legitimate defense of his home country of virginia.

lee also once said:

doing the right thing does not always make one feel good. it only must feel right.

my objection to "god bless america" is mainly to what has been done with it. it has been emptied of any real feeling and meaning by its overuse as another bullshit flag waver.

woody guthrie felt the same way when it was first put on the air during the great depression. woody would be riding rails or working as a fruit picker, see kids and old folks starving in the labor camps while the radios blasted "god bless america" for all to hear.

there was a sign there
that tried to stop me
and what the sign said
was "private property"
on the other side though
it didn't say nothing
that side was made for you and me

i've always like woody's viewpoint better. i think in my time in the service, and later traveling both this nation and the world i've pretty much been able to see all that's good, and bad, about this country and our people.

i love them anyway. it's a deeper love that comes from intimate knowledge. i don't need a stage production to prove my love. i know that my country, just like me, has made grevious mistakes, which to some must certainly feel unforgiveable. i also know, from my own recovery from addiciton that there is always a hope, and a promise of redemption.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Maheanuu Tane said...

Bravo Zulu MB!

You have upheld your honor and I commend you for it. These skunks running the government today have NO effing idea of the meaning of the word. Duty is Duty and you have fulfilled yours and then some.

Fair winds and following seas


9:52 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...


One feels almost heretical to speak of it, but I for one am tired of the gilding of the whole affair. This is not some glorious undertaking, and it is a terrible waste of these good young lives.

Most people feel there is some inherent meaning in their lives, their deaths--but it's their own construction. Sometimes, it might be better to say "That was a waste," to the end of making something better. Imagine if all the Gold Star mothers rallied?

The song has been cheapened by its being rendered over all manner of tawdry events, from pro football games to the Republican National Convention.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Rez Dog said...

Your music is a gift for a grieving family. I'd bet that even "GBA" coming from your harp won't be at all cheap or tawdry.

7:26 AM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

I admire you and I now have one more reason to say that.

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mi indio honrado jugador de la harpa. Cuando se hace tu deber, venir a mí en tucson. Yo tengo trabajo más feliz para que tus manos hagan. Juntos haremos los niños sonrisa.


9:18 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

hablas, yo obedeces, querida. hasta viernes. gracias por este regalo encantador, el es exactamente lo que necesite hoy.

9:32 AM  
Blogger seventh sister said...

I know that both you and the grieving family wil receive a blessing from your performance. Here is hoping that you don't have to do this kind of thing again.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Maggie Rosethorn said... are giving that family, and their son, the best gift of all. Your willing and whole-hearted participation in their grief, submerging your own feelings out of respect for theirs. Many blessings on you for your grace.

2:15 PM  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Two follow-ons:

--Ranger says he does not know how you do it. It was almost too much for him to read the names at the traveling Vietnam Wall exhibit.

--He wanted me to translate the lovely messages in Spanish to this post. Afterward, he inquired how he might receive such a note.

I told him he was very good with the counterintelligence thinking, and perhaps it were best he stay to that. I think these other things might be out of Ranger's league :)


7:30 PM  

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