July 31, 2017
By Arthur Henry Gunther III
Not all eulogies are truthfully written, because there is a natural spin to comments made about the departed, much like the wailing of a relative or two at a wake for someone they actually disliked in life. The good-form factor seems to kick in, in the balance we seek as decent people.
Truth is, though, there is something positive to say about almost all of us: “He wasn’t so bad, after all. I miss him.” The average person on this earth, given individual circumstances — hardship, wealth, emotional makeup, health concerns — does pretty good overall as a human being and deserves a final tribute as well as the recollections that continue in those who remember long after.
What of the people who deserve no eulogy, such as a Hitler? Nothing good can be said about such a person, who might not even be human but of a devil, the actual Devil, if you will. History is written after such a man or woman, noting the violent death of millions whose eulogies cannot be uttered for there are too many dead at once. The collective eulogy later emerges as a holocaust memorial.
It is custom to be grand in expression after a public figure dies, such as a U.S. president. His administration may have been controversial, the achievements relatively small, the public support generally unenthusiastic. But he was president, and there has been dignity in that office for a long time, despite politics.
So, the military parade takes place, there is a laying-in at the presidential library and heartfelt speeches are made by those who saw fewer warts than others as well as more restrained comment by those who noted some achievement that could be mentioned at passing.
Not unlike those relatives at the wake who disliked the deceased in life, but on balance, followedgood form and found something to applaud.
We do not know what future eulogies will be said for particular leaders when that moment is necessary. The answer may be that again there will be none for an individual, but many for the victims.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. firstname.lastname@example.org