Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bagpipes in Oklahoma

Timothy McVey.

The Murrah Federal Building.

Pre-schoolers in the ground floor daycare center.

A rental truck filled with granulated fertilizer mixed with diesel fuel.

These are memories of 15 years ago in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Then-Senator Bob Dole was quick to call it the work of Islamic terrorists. They would indeed leave their mark six years later. This proved to be homegrown, apple pie, USA terrorism by someone with military experience--experience in our military. 160+ lives were lost, each marked by the unusual empty glass chairs of the Oklahoma City memorial.

Now, I've been to Oklahoma. I used to live south of there in Texas. I'm always amazed to see footage of memorial ceremonies--whether for firefighters, policemen, soldiers or storm victims--when bagpipers are present in places like that. If you were a guy and wore a skirt and white spats to school, to the rodeo or the honky tonk, something as bad as the OKC bombing might happen to you and your household. For sure your pickup wouldn't survive out in the parking lot.

It's ironic that this odd-sounding musical instrument born of sheepskin, wooden flutes and tinkering in the highlands of the British Isles has become the ubiquitous voice of mournful melodies and reflective moments when stump speeches and solemn exhortations take a rest.

I always thought the true Scotsmen in their native highlands wore red tartan plaids and that some of the Protestant Scots who were sent to supplant the feared Catholics in Ireland by William of Orange became those who wore the green tartan plaids. In some ways, it's the embodiment of what led to 600 years of civil war and terrorism between two groups of people who both call themselves Christians.

My, my, how we weave tangled plots, we humans and our territories, our kingdoms and our unforgiving, warring hearts.

I hope bagpipes are forever played in the Scottish Highlands. And I hope those skirls forever resound across those crags and meadows to sing the grace of God and the wonder of creation. And I hope we always remember that this extraordinarily odd and unique instrument had a life before it became synonymous with mourning, funerals and memorials.

May we always mourn when we should. But may we always live when we must.



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