These two artists were justly famous, but their passings were overshadowed by the not-unexpected death of Senator Edward Kennedy (D–MA). Kennedy championed many issues confronting the underprivileged in America: poverty, health care and education to name just a few. Despite a very privileged upbringing, he spent over 47 years in the Senate fighting for economic justice and equality. The media have called him the “Lion of the Senate”, a fitting tribute to a wise sage who relished a good political battle. He was a liberal’s liberal who was not above engaging in the now-dying concept of bipartisan politics. America will sorely miss this lion.
Another noteworthy death this summer was Harry Patch, 111, a private in the British army. He was believed to be the last surviving soldier of World War I. With his death, another link to our distant past is lost and we must do our best to remember him and all who served with him. The lessons they taught us about the idiocy and futility of war have been learned and re-learned over thousands of years. Somehow we keep forgetting these lessons. Patch’s death also means that next year's reunion of World War I veterans will definitely suck.
Then, there’s Michael Jackson. Remember him? He hasn’t had a good summer either. Michael Jackson’s burial has been scheduled and re-scheduled several times. It was originally suppose to happen today (August 29) on the anniversary of his 51st birthday. Then it was moved to September 1, and then...who knows?
This can mean only one thing: the tour is definitely off! Still it’s been nearly two months since the Gloved One died. What’s the hurry? It’s not like they’re in any danger of surpassing the elapsed time between death and burial of such famous people as entertainer James Brown or former President Gerald Ford.
Was there some notion among the tour promoters that if they kept Jackson’s body out of the ground long enough that the tour might actually happen anyway? Did they believe that they might be able to exploit him just one more time? Come on people, leave Jackson with some sort of dignity and give him the burial befitting the King of Pop.
So, we say goodbye to all of these people as the summer of 2009 itself passes into history. We’ll remember them today, learn from the lessons their lives taught us, and use those lessons to guide us in the future. That is, after all, the primary function of history.
(Thank you for reading. Please don’t be afraid of history – it can be our friend.)