The memorial service for five Dallas law enforcement officers who were slain in sniper attacks on July 7 served as a somber tribute that was broadcast live on all three cable news channels. In attendance were President Obama and his wife, Vice President Biden and his wife and former President George W. Bush.
Obama and Bush spoke at the gathering, held at the Morton H. Myerson Symphony Center on July 12. Bush’s presence was primarily due to the fact that he and his wife Laura have lived in the Dallas area since they left the White House in January 2009.
However, the former president sparked controversy during a portion of the service in which “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was sung by the accompanying choir. The Civil War-era song is far from a lively tune, yet Bush was seen making movements similar to dancing during the five-minute song while all audience members held hands.
The dancing actually involved Bush swinging his arms and swaying to the music, yet still evoked outrage from some quarters of social media for what was perceived as disrespect to the fallen officers. One likely reason for the outrage by critics was that Bush was smiling at the time of these actions.
Outlets like Twitter had people posting comments that likened Bush’s actions as to what usually takes place at a pep rally. Some others simply took offense to the behavior, with one person going so far as to state that their heart hurt watching it.
Other social media users focused on the reaction of First Lady Michelle Obama, who appeared to register some confusion at first about the movements. However, she was later seen briefly smiling.
Some posters focused on the fact that Bush’s wardrobe choice of a blue suit was in contrast to virtually all of the other men on stage that wore black suits. Still, the most extreme reactions hinted that Bush was under the influence of alcohol or was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
One of Bush’s defenders was a woman, Donna Brazile, who had previously worked to defeat his father, George H.W. Bush, for the presidency. She simply tweeted that Bush was, “feeling the spirit.”
The controversy overshadowed what many felt was a compassionate speech by Bush that focused on the concept of unity. He also took the time to pay tribute to the officers who died and the seven others who had been wounded in the attack.
The issue recalled one similar situation that took place during Bush’s presidency. On April 25, 2007, Bush was recognizing Malaria Awareness Day during a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House.
Flanked by the Kankouran West African Dance Company, Bush began briefly dancing to the beat of a bongo drum in the style of the company.