A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
I attended a funeral last weekend. I did not know the deceased personally, but I am close to one of his sons. So out of respect for my friend and his family, I attended.
As I spoke to people there and listened to the two eulogies, I began to learn about the life the deceased man had lived. And as I listened to the speakers, I thought of the movie Batman Begins.
In a scene from the movie Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne's childhood friend, says the following to the adult Bruce Wayne who she believes has disgraced his legacy, and fallen into a life of dishonor and debauchery:
"It's not who you are underneath, Bruce. It's what you DO that defines you".
The man whose funeral I attended was raised on a farm and lived his entire life in rural southwestern Wisconsin. He was not highly educated. He lived a working-man's life in a small town just down the road from nowheres-ville. Some might even say he lived a life of insignificance - but you had better not tell his family or his community that.
They knew that this man was defined by what he DID.
All he managed to do in his life was serve his country in the U.S. Military, stand his post as a loving and supportive husband, lead his family as a faithful and dutiful father, and grow into a pillar of his community. And he also was kind to hundreds of children.
As the stories unfolded, I learned that he was renowned for carrying abundant supplies of Juicy Fruit Gum, and in his decades-long job as a truck driver for a local oil company, distributed thousands of sticks of the stuff to the children of his community. Many of those "kids" attended the funeral, and shared how in addition to the gum, he always had time for them, always had a ready ear and a kind word, and always was a source of affirmation and encouragement.
The Minister spoke about how we too often confuse love as being an emotion or a sentiment. He correctly pointed out that love is actually defined and demonstrated by BEHAVIOR. He was telling those in attendance the same thing that Rachel Dawes told Bruce Wayne.
If the real-life Minister and the fictional Rachel Dawes are right, then the legacy of this man was the result of what he DID.
So what's the point?
We can talk about stimulus packages and bailouts and geo-politics all we want.
But what America really needs, the Sine Qua Non without which nothing else will matter, is a greater number of men and women who live their lives in accordance with the principles of this man's life.
That's what I was thinking about on the ride home from the service.
And I have asked my friend to remind me of his Dad as often as he thinks I need to hear it.