First lady's attendance at Hadiya's funeral necessary and vital

To her family and friends and to most of us, Hadiya is a girl killed for no reason by some barbarian. She had a life coming to her. She was a person.

But to some politicians, she has become something else as well, a symbol, the perfect victim, the honor student and high school band majorette who participated in Obama inauguration ceremonies last month. All this makes her politically useful in the gun control debate, whether her family wants that or not.

It is the way of politics, and if you've lived long enough, you've seen other children so transformed, the dead resurrected as symbols.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn will also attend the funeral, and in all likelihood the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The jockeying for media face time will run right up to the service.

Mrs. Obama, who is not expected to make a speech, knows what's coming. She also knows that if her husband attended the funeral, the message would be that the mayor had lost control of the streets.

Presidents are no longer seen as the fathers of the country. The fathers died long ago. Modern presidents, regardless of party, are viewed cynically, as men of compromise and legalisms, of word tricks and power.

But the first lady is another matter. Traditionally, the first lady has been placed above politics. She's seen as the mother of the country. That's always been the role.

It's been Michelle Obama's role for years.

And the fact that she's coming home, to a city she and her family might not return to after her husband's term is over, is significant.

It's also good. And right.

She'll do what is expected of her. She'll comfort the Pendleton family, and she'll comfort Chicago. If you're a parent, you know that during the service, she'll also think of her own daughters.

And she'll mourn.

Because that's what all mothers do at funerals of innocent children.

They mourn.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass

CHICAGO

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