The husband called this morning to tell me I should call into the Laura Ingraham radio show. Why? Laura was discussing the memorial service yesterday at Virginia Tech. She was frustrated at the lack of any Christian references during the part of the service when the clergy members spoke. There were representatives from the Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Protestant communities. What struck me at the time, and I later told my husband about when he came home last night, was that of all the speakers on the stage, the Muslim was the only person who never applauded any of the other speakers. No one. He didn't applaud the President of the university, the President of the U.S., the Governor of the state of VA, or any of the other speakers and clergy. Everyone else was very respectful and welcoming. Everyone else stood at the appropriate times and applauded as new speakers rose to speak and when they finished. Not him. It was as if he was making a point to be rude and disrespectful.
I'm a girl raised in the South. I notice these things. Manners are important in society. There was no excuse for his behavior. If we are to be respectful to Muslims and accepting of their ways, they have to show the same courtesy. He sat slouched on the stage in his chair, which was directly behind the podium so there was no overlooking him, and his chin rested on his hand throughout the service. It was as though he was bored.
I don't think Virginia Tech is predominantly Muslim in student population. I don't know why he was the first of the clergy to speak. I suppose it was to make the standard point of diversity on campus but it was inappropriate nonetheless.
It was fun to talk to Laura Ingraham! The husband heard it over his computer at work.
The memorial service for the Virginia Tech victims and families and the students yesterday was quite moving, as it would be. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Governor Tim Kaine. As we are of different political parties, I wasn't sure about him. He was very respectful and thoughtful. He thanked President Bush for helping him get back to Virginia for the service from Tokyo. Later, after being asked about those trying to make a political statement about gun control on the back of this tragedy, the governor very clearly said, " to someone who wants to make this into some little personal political crusade, I say don't bring that here." He went on to say it was disrespectful to the grieving families and students, to not let them have their time.
Are you listening, Rosie?
The star of the service? Nikki Giovanni, the poet in residence at Virginia Tech. She was awesome. She spoke at the end of the service and uplifted the crowd like a rock star:
"We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness. We are the Hokies! We will prevail, we will prevail! We are Virginia Tech!"
Nikki Giovanni, born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1946. She graduated from Fisk University in 1967 and began her own publishing company. She is self-published and some of her poems are set to gospel music. She has been honored with awards from the NAACP and other groups honoring her poems on social issues.
After the speakers were finished, and Amazing Grace was softly played, the silence was broken with students chanting with school spirit.