I read the paper yesterday, something I often do on Sundays while drinking tea, sitting in a big comfy recliner catching up on current events. There was an article on page 8 that upset me tremendously. The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reported on funeral picketers testing the limits of free speech. What caught my eye, as I preferred not to read the article yet, I just knew how I would react to it- was the photo that accompanied the report.
A solemn soldier, Retired Army Maj. Gen. Bill Branson standing at salute in front of a group of hate-filled-in-God's-name picketers. His steadfast stance in the face of adversity was very reassuring and encouraged me to digest the article as best I could. It was very difficult to read and still this morning, I am affected. How can it be, I am left to wonder- that in our most vulnerable hours, we can no longer expect peace at a funeral?
Mourning, grieving becomes as the experts say "complicated" when a life ends suddenly, when a young person dies before their time, their natural end. The ceremony then becomes more than just a rite of passage, it is a life line of support. The burden of learning that your child will never walk through your door again, will never sit at your table, will never come home from war, will never have children, will never...is too much to bear alone. It is then when you realize you need your community, your friends and family to help bear the weight of the burden for you, until one day- on borrowed strength, you can stand again on your own and go on with life.
I cannot imagine what the hundreds of families who have lost their soldier sons and daughters must have felt, when on top of all their grief and unbearable pain- they had to bear as well, cruelty from a group who are motivated by fear and hate, who felt safe and well within the law and their rights to freedom of speech to desecrate a soldier's ceremony of honor.
Freedom of speech goes too far when it is allowed to dishonor another's right to bury with honor- their dead.
When freedom of speech inflicts physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pain on the overtly vulnerable grievers- it is no longer a freedom; it is a weapon that should be lawfully taken away from the assailants.
. In peace, in war time, all throughout history- we honor our dead by our ceremonies, it is a human right that should be upheld by the highest court.
(I realize I probably made the same point over and over- I tried to write this just like I would say it, but...I couldn't. I wrote and re-wrote too many times... In my time of great need, when Taps was played and made me know there was a sanctity all among us and echoing from the past, at the very least I was allowed that somber solitude, the stillness of every tongue in the moment of silence before the guns went off and even after- I was allowed a ceremony to bury someone that wore a uniform for you, but was a son to me. It was a deeply respectful and moving honor to his service and his life. That article made me realize what a blessing the funeral was, I never thought I'd be thankful for it, but it does and did somewhat , give me and mine- peace, I pray we all speak up. I had to say something, it is simply not right to deny a family peace at the time of it's last ceremony with their loved one. )