Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Bells

If you've never read it, check out Poe's poem "The Bells." Before you subject yourself to Linda Wertheimer's banal bell tribute to Gerald Ford on today's Saturday Morning Edition, consider these lines from Poe's lovely work:

Hear the tolling of the bells,
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!

Or better still listen to Phil Ochs fine rendition of the poem (it's free).

Now gear yourself up for the Wertheimer's minutiea of how the bells will ring at the National Cathedral for Gerald Ford's funeral. You'll learn how the biggest bell will ring slowly 38 times for the 38th President, how there will be a muffled bell ringing where the bells will have their clappers wrapped in leather "to soften the strike and signal that this is a somber and important occasion." The details and the weepy emotionalism are excruciating. Linda tells us that on Tuesday she'll listen to the funeral on the radio ("maybe sneak a peak at TV"!) - but she'll "also step out on [her] back porch and listen to the bells mourning his death and marking his life."

I'd like to recommend that she do a little compassion exercise while she's worshiping deceased Dear Leader. She could imagine that the great, big bell ringing just once a minute for each of the 250,000 East Timorese that Gerald Ford helped to wipe off the face of the earth. That minimal tribute would take 4167 hours or 174 days. I guess that would be asking a lot of any sane person, so how about just one peal each second. That would only take about 70 hours, or not quite three days. Or she could - like NPR - just figure that those people's lives not only don't merit a ringing of bells, but aren't even worth mentioning.

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