Potential hot take incoming: if someone wants respect after they die, they have to earn it while they’re still alive.
On Feb. 17, American Radio Personality Rush Limbaugh died as a result of lung cancer complications. This almost immediately sent social media users into a battle of whether or not all dead people are worthy of respect. I caught Twitter’s version of this battle. A lot of people (read: the ones I follow) laughed about his death and very quickly moved on. That brought in waves of conservatives who demanded that people stop making fun of his passing because ‘he was still a person!’
First of all, Limbaugh was a Trump supporter who referred to feminists as ‘feminazis,’ and once tried to play off laughing at someone comparing former President Barack Obama to a cartoon monkey by saying he had ‘never heard of’ Curious George. As a Black woman (and, yes, a feminist), Limbaugh hasn’t earned a single ounce of my respect.
Maybe, if you’re a Trump supporter, you love Limbaugh! If you’re oblivious to all of his conservative views, you might be a big fan! Perhaps you have other, strange reasons for liking this late man. However, as the saying goes, respect is earned. Limbaugh hurt too many communities for conservatives to try to hush people about everything he did wrong while he was alive.
Unfortunately, that’s what people think respect is: immediate forgiveness once someone has passed away. Any mention of a dead person’s bad track record is something like ‘soiling their name’ or ‘not letting them rest in peace.’ Limbaugh didn’t let people live in peace; he chose to perpetuate hate with his huge platform, after all. Is it really that awful, then, or even surprising, that younger generations aren’t all bent-up over a bigoted person dying off? I mean, we are trying to progress a society, right? So, when the types of people that are holding us back from this goal die, what are we supposed to do? Cry? Maybe celebrating is a bit much; I, personally, would never wish death on someone, nor would I publicly laugh when a person passes away. But am I mad at people who did? No, I’m not.
Here’s why. Limbaugh was one of those ‘I want to be oppressed, too’ White people who denied White privilege even exists in the U.S., and we all recognize that eliminating White privilege is the only way to have equality. How can we do that if people who won’t even acknowledge White privilege are holding influential positions? We know from experience: pulling White people out of these overpowered careers is extremely difficult (hello, twice-impeached Donald Trump), and death is oftentimes the only way that effectively happens. When people who have been fighting systems of oppression all their lives chuckle a little at the passing of someone who wouldn’t even acknowledge their struggle, and actively perpetuated it, that’s their business, and conservatives have no right to berate them for it.
Although this situation is not inherently one of race, I’m going to make it one, and you can thank Limbaugh’s extensive, racist history for that. When George Floyd and Breonna Taylor died at the hands of police officers, plenty of conservatives either laughed or ignored these tragedies completely. On Valentine’s Day, a George Floyd meme circulated amongst members of the Los Angeles Police Department — people who are meant to be professional! At least Limbaugh was only publicly laughed at by people on social media. He wasn’t murdered, by the way, and certainly not for no reason, like trying to buy something at a convenience store, or sleeping peacefully in bed. Limbaugh smoked, and he died of lung cancer. That was nature, not murder.
Like I said earlier, I, personally, haven’t laughed at or made jokes about Limbaugh’s death. In full honesty, I barely knew the guy. However, seeing such an outbreak of conservatives trying to mask over 30 years of harmful intolerance was infuriating. Let people die with whatever they lived by. Certainly he knew, by spreading his intolerant views to millions of people on the radio, that people would not forget about that once he passed. What does it matter to him, anyway? He’s resting, now.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Andrew Harnik / AP Photo / Politico