When visitors walk into the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery, one of the first things they see are small, embossed brass signs that read, “Silence and Respect.”
Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for 400,000 brave Americans who gave their lives for their country or served in combat.
One of those is Army Capt. Humayun Khan, killed in 2004 in Iraq, whose grief-stricken parents spoke at the 2016 Democratic convention in Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love. His mother, in her stupefying grief, did not utter a word.
Brotherly and sisterly love hangs in the air like mist at Arlington. Those comrades in arms, men and women, are interred in neat rows of almost endless white tombstones, and they loved their family and friends so much that they died for them.
For the first-time visitor, the magnitude of the sacrifice is breathtaking and emotionally overwhelming. The stark contrast with the ivory stone and the flawlessly green grass is a sight that all Americans should experience.
It is at Arlington National Cemetery that you can get your strongest sense that a presidential campaign is not a reality show, or a marketing opportunity. It is a bid for a deadly serious office in which the occupant has to have humility, judgment, and, above all, the maturity to lead this nation into war.
Arlington gets 4 million visitors per year, and many of those visitors are those who either lost loved ones in America’s battles for freedom, or knew one of the fallen. Only those people can understand the excruciating pain of that loss.
You see, the survivors understand silence and respect.
They do not tweet obsessively about their personal greatness, or trumpet their sacrifice. They live it. They don’t equate it with job creation.
They look in their child’s forever-empty room, see the toys and the models and the dolls and the drawings and know that their child is gone, having given his or her own life for the greater good of their country.
They mourn fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends. The photographs fade. The pain does not.
At Arlington National Cemetery, where Capt. Humayun Khan rests in a row with his comrades, beneath the green grass and the American flags, there is only the quiet. We can only offer our gratitude to them and their families.
Silence and respect. Three little words that ought to occur, instinctively, amid sacrifice of that proportion.
There are no words, of course, for a presidential candidate who must be lectured on those simple white grave markers, and how to behave around them.