Not even in death
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
Given Limbaugh’s commentary that NFL games looked like a “Game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons,” I’m not losing sleep over the public celebrations that did occur.
In January this year, television host Larry King died. Shortly after his death, Piers Morgan took to Twitter to remind the world of his personal problems with the late interviewer. This was generally seen as being done in poor taste, but Charlamagne tha God of The Breakfast Club was torn over the tweet. Though he thought the timing was wrong, he believed being true to yourself and your feelings is the right way to live. His co-host, one DJ Envy, essentially felt that beefs unfinished can continue even when one of the two has died.
After the controversial conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh died, many celebrated while others mourned. Thusly, it must be asked: is it ever appropriate to disrespect people who have recently died? Should death absolve someone of all the pain that they may have caused while they were living?
It may be necessary to first separate the personal beef from the legitimate outrage that someone causes. Larry King was almost universally loved and respected, and Piers Morgan’s tweet was clearly an airing of personal grievances. In contrast, Rush Limbaugh is well known for his extraordinarily offensive, disrespectful, and at times utterly hateful commentary. Case in point: Rush Limbaugh once referred to President Barack Obama and actress Halle Berry as “Halfrican-Americans.” Rush Limbaugh asked aloud, “How is it gonna look” about Pete Buttigieg kissing his husband on stage next to Donald Trump if he was inaugurated. He also belittled Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s battle.
Rush Limbaugh has a long and well documented history of comments seen by some as homophobic, racist, and misogynistic. This is not a man that spread love for the common American citizen. This is not a man that called for unity and upliftment or the amelioration of the common man, this is someone who threatened to move out of America if Obama’s healthcare plans had been implemented. This is a man who built much of his brand on the constant denigration of women and minorities.
It may be more important to consider not a celebration of death, but instead the legacy that is brought forth after a death. In an interview with Kyle Kulinski and Krystal Ball, independent journalist Glenn Greenwald points that immediately after the passing of a public figure, their legacy is built. Should the world want to have an accurate and true to life legacy made, it is imperative that both the good and the bad of the person is discussed. Clearly, that doesn’t have to mean fireworks and cheering at the wake, but the temptation to sugar-coat and soften those who have done ill in their lives is to be resisted.
Take the long controversy surrounding statues and schools honoring confederate fighters and “heroes” in America. I believe the saccharine twist of history that has allowed many to divorce the civil war from slavery and oppression has allowed the statues to be viewed as “heritage, not hate.” Should someone claim these things as heritage, they must claim all of it as heritage and deal with it in the reality that it was. Humanity and history is not pretty, and we have changed dramatically as our culture has evolved. The rose-tinted glasses that make ancestors seem better than they were is ahistorical and we must not let that be the legacy of those who die in our living memory.
So, do we then celebrate the death of those who have lived their lives spreading malicious ideas and scorn on others? First, not all celebrations are equal; a memer known as “Quentin Quarantino” started a GoFundMe page to raise money and donate it to Planned Parenthood (itself a controversial organization that provides abortions) in spiteful honor of Rush Limbaugh. This certainly is an act of celebration as Rush Limbaugh actively opposed abortion and feminism throughout his career; in fact, Limbaugh helped popularize the term “Feminazi.”
Last year I pondered celebrating the COVID diagnosis of Donald Trump and my opinion is unchanged. Though I may not advocate ruckus bonfires and feasts, I certainly understand why the LGBTQ community celebrated Limbaugh’s passing. Given his commentary that NFL games looked like a “Game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons,” I’m not losing sleep over the public celebrations that did occur. As DJ Envy said to Charlamagne tha God, “I’ve been saying it when you were alive, I’m going to be saying it when your dead.”