2006 ended with a week of three notable deaths — singer James Brown, former President Gerald Ford and Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein.
We retain impassioned views of these three men who touched the world in far different ways.
James Brown was the “Godfather of Soul” and the founder of rap, funk and disco music. His songs and their lyrics have bridged three generations. His emotional dance steps on stage influenced those of Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger. James Brown was a revolutionary in musical style by blending music, movement and expression.
Gerald Ford never wanted to be president, but the circumstances surrounding White House politics in 1974 hoisted him from his House speakership to vice president and then to the 38th presidency following the resignation of Richard Nixon. His calm, open and straightforward leadership steered a troubled nation through the political turmoil in the aftermath of Watergate. In a politically fatal move, he showed courage and wisdom by pardoning Nixon for all the crimes he committed as president — a move that would heal our nation.
Saddam Hussein, the dethroned dictator of Iraq, was executed by hanging for ordering the killing of 148 Shiite men and boys following a foiled assassination attempt in 1982. Hussein ruled 27 million Iraqis by threat of imprisonment and death, and so he died violently on the end of a rope. As he was being led to the gallows, he remained defiant to those who brought his dictatorship to an abrupt end in 2003. Hussein, a Sunni, was involved in several bitter exchanges with the Shiite guards and executioners and with Shiite witnesses. On the gallows, Hussein declared, “Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies and the Persians (Iranians).”
Brown and Ford have been given deserving regal funerals; Hussein’s casket was airlifted by a U.S. helicopter to his hometown in the dead of the night. No state-like burial was planned. None is warranted.