I Owe the Dead Nothing
I owe the dead nothing more than I owe the living.
And if you were a coal-burning furnace of racism and misogyny while you were living and breathing I do not owe you graveside reverence you did not earn. Stating facts about a deeply flawed man does not equate tap-dancing on his coffin.
The litmus test for my mortality is not whether or not I speak in hushed tones about a recently deceased bigot. It is not my ethical obligation to only speak of a bigot’s best qualities while politely ignoring the career he built around selling hate. I don’t have to obfuscate the truth in order to be a good person. And if adhering to antiquated etiquette is your definition for “respect” I will remind you of two things: 1. Stating facts is not disrespectful, 2. Respect is earned.
I will speak ill of the dead, any dead, who squandered the one brief beautiful life God gave them by making the lives of innocent others harder. He was an ill man. How else should I speak of him? I say with a sigh and a shrug more than rage, Fuck you and the four horses you rode in on, Rush Limbaugh.
A man’s number was called. It was his time. And now America has one less public fissure spewing geothermal hate.
Apparently it was not Mark Twain who said, “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”
I take no quantifiable pleasure in Limbaugh’s passing. But I do take pleasure in knowing that one less blowhard will be off-gassing bigotry in our shared spaces. I feel relief. A brief reprieve before I start to wonder which angry white man will swell to fill Limbaugh’s high blood-pressure void, the hate-space he exploited, not because he was necessarily a crusader for any of the ideologies he “espoused” but because he was willing to pimp himself out for advertisers.
Whether he was a true believer or not his true motives were clear. Vitriol sells.
“I want the largest audience I can get because that’s how I can charge the highest advertising rate. Which means what else do I want? Money. I am trying to earn a profit. It’s capitalism.”
I imagine he thought himself erudite, a conservative raconteur unafraid of his opponents. But he was a simple shill. He huffed and puffed and played the part of the righteously outraged bully. And he thus popularized the far-right sport of taunting your opponents rather than fighting for what you claim to believe. To be clear, I despise it when anyone does this. But it is only the right who elects their bullies to lead them, to speak for them.
“Enraging liberals is simply one of the more enjoyable side effects of my wisdom,” Limbaugh was quoted as saying¹, unironically. But wise men don’t refer to their own wisdom.
Rush Limbaugh was a fully functioning adult with a bloated platform. He did not use his powers for good. So I can smile at the serendipity of him dying during Black History Month on the day they detonated a bankrupt Trump casino in Atlantic City.²
Two anachronistic monuments fell today. And without wishing death upon anyone, and without delighting in Limbaugh’s passing, I can state with a clear conscience that our culture is better without both. Our skies are clearer but we still have to contend with their worshippers.
As I said when George H. W. Bush died, it’s ok to tell the truth about the deceased. It is not necessary to beatify mortals like the saints they never were. And lying damn sure isn’t the measure of my morality.