There are few occasions during which the vitriol of politics is tempered by good will, good memories, and good faith. In the Heartland of America, current event discussions invade the sacrosanctity of the dinner table. At office water coolers and coffee shops, they often end in heated debates or rallying cheers. There are no safe spaces free from politics — not even during a funeral.
The faithful friends and family gathered today were present to celebrate the life of a woman who had, by all accounts, lived a long, adventure-filled life that most would envy. A lively personality, mostly full of good cheer and chatter, it’s hard to imagine that overheard conversations before and after the religious ceremony would have bothered her in any way.
And heck, it was family, and they came from many parts of flyover country to visit.
Tomorrow is Another Day
Jeff, 61, a Marine, now retired (but always a Marine), broke the ice with a conversation about the recent news coming from the Oval Office concerning Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). The White House is threatening to override the current program of allowing recipients to select their foods by providing a standardized food box with “necessities.” This isn’t one of his most popular reform ideas, and the president has been hit with a wave of bad press – this time well-deserved.
“Of all the stupid things to fall on your sword for, this is at the top of the list,” mumbled Jeff to a woman standing off to one side. She just stifled a laugh, good naturedly punched his shoulder, and regained her composure.
“They’ve been Trumped,” he continued, “And, I’m a big fan.”
Mildred, 82, a classmate of the dearly departed, huddled under an umbrella in the mist at the graveside ceremony, clutching the arm of her husband of 60 years. As they waited for the family to be seated, they spoke quietly about the Winter Olympic games, specifically of Shaun White’s epic snowboard performance, edging out Ayumu Hirano of Japan to win his third gold medal. They discussed the media’s coverage of Kim Jong Un’s sister, which was “utterly ludicrous” because who cares about that “crazy nut’s family” and finally of the outspoken and gay figure skater, Adam Rippon, who has said he welcomes a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence. The two men could not be further apart on the issue of gay marriage, and according to Mildred, who whispered loudly, “Gay marriage is here to stay and maybe our vice president could learn a few things from someone who knows those moves.”
Pass the Ammunition
During the luncheon provided by local church ladies for the mourners, shell-shocked loved ones joined in the current event conversations, a welcome distraction from grieving. The discussion ebbed and flowed between a tableful of cousins about the next generation of Snowflakes and their lack of motivation and common sense.
Todd, 58, was knee deep into a story of teaching his oldest son to handle a gun back when he was a preteen, followed by a discussion on the best place to purchase ammunition. “We carried hunting rifles to school. No one stole them, and we sure didn’t want to shoot anyone. Kids today need rules and responsibility. Skip the pharmaceuticals and blue ribbons for showing up.” There was a lot of affirmative head nodding on that discussion.
The Wheel in the Sky
Most mourners would dismiss fragments of disjointed conversation as just “getting through” as the painful events of the day unfold. It will not register that they talked politics during a time devoted to a loved one – nor will they remember Kim Jong Un’s unlikely appearance in the polite musings of the bereaved. You may think that a funeral service is not the time or place for political discussions; but in rural America, it is an avowal that life will go on for those still here on earth, muddling through, and making way for those yet to come. We call it normal.