The memorials for Tim Russert have been like one huge celebration of the culture I was raised in – working class, political, Catholic, and Democratic. I bawled straight through Bruce Springsteen’s performance of “Thunder Road” because I grew up with Bruce; whenever the E Street Band came on WNEW-FM, someone cranked it up and most of my family sang along while the rest of us shook our heads and rolled our eyes at the sheer silliness of it, the life of it. The only people with dry eyes at Russert’s memorial had to be the people who didn’t know the lyrics.
He was raised by Jesuits, and like Jack McCoy once said on Law & Order: “When you’re raised by the Jesuits, you end up either obedient or impertinent.” But it strikes me, upon hearing so much about who Tim Russert is, and the ways his culture and community cross paths with my own, that a well-raised Catholic is not one or the other, but both.
There is nothing like an Irish wake to bring out the story-telling, the luck & the blarney as well as the earnestness and moodiness of this part of the American pie. There’s a sense of grief under all of it, the foreshadowing of the grief that will come later, at night, when the doors close and the phone stops ringing. But I get the feeling that for those in Russert’s circle, there won’t be a time late at night when there isn’t someone on the phone to tell another story of the person who is so sorely missed.
Thanks, Tim Russert, for all those Sundays watching Meet the Press, but moreso, for always choosing the one kid for his team who he thought might never otherwise get picked. That’s the kind of underdog empathy that my upbringing foregrounded, and apparently it was in his, too.