Saturday, May 12, 2012

Did You See What That Jackass Wrote About Death?

Why are we made to feel guilty when we point out an obvious flaw about someone who has recently passed?

I had this conversation recently with a friend, and it confounded us both. I mean, if someone was a complete prick in life, then why should he/she suddenly be deified in death? Even if they weren’t to the right of Genghis Khan, what’s wrong with pointing out a few of the negatives concerning a person? Honestly, if I hear nothing but wonderful things about someone after they’ve died it sounds a bit suspicious. No one is a complete angel their entire lives. Everyone has their bad days…weeks…decades. When I kick the proverbial bucket I guarantee there are going to be a few who shrug their shoulders and whisper, ‘Jackass.’

I can understand the ‘respecting the dead’ thing to a degree. I mean, life is hard and to get through it at all takes courage and determination. But just because you’ve survived the flow doesn’t mean you can be King Jerk-Off of Putztown. If I did not like someone in life, I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say I like them now that they’re dead. (Even if I do, in fact, like him/her better that way.)

For example, (and you knew one was coming) when Jerry Falwell kicked it a few of years ago, I was okay with that. The guy was a prick. Think of all the lives he and his evangelical gay-bashing helped snuff out. Sure, he didn’t have a direct hand in the teen suicides and therapy bills his anti-gay ravings caused, or the anti-gay violence that is still prevalent in our country due in large part to the encouragement of his Moral Majority, but it was direct enough. I’m sorry, but Falwell and those like him scar the world. I’ll speak ill of the dead in his case, because he did something far worse: he spoke ill of the living (I know: cheap turn of phrase, but it works here). Young innocents were the victims of his rhetoric.

On TV around here, as I’m sure is the case where you live, every time some unfortunate is killed the media always find someone to give the same rehearsed speech: “He was such a good person.”

Oh, yeah? Prove it.

That’s what I want the reporter to say. Of course, that will never happen. But honestly, if this interviewee is going to proclaim to the world that the deceased was such a good person they should be able to back that up, right? Prove to me, the viewer, that Mr. Jones there – stabbed 45 times, clutching a rifle – prove to me that Mr. Jones is a good guy. We’re all ‘good guys’ in our own heads.

Could it be that there’s some superstition that still exists? That by speaking ill of the dead we're afraid we might anger some boogeyman and he’ll seek revenge on us for not weeping enough at his funeral – or eating way too much at the wake (“You didn’t look sad enough chowing down on that ham salad sandwich! I shall haunt you!”) It’s a strange notion, but I think it just might be there in the back of all of our heads with all those other monsters of the unknown.

Now, having said all of this, I would certainly never wish death on anyone, not even the worst among us. Life is precious, and there’s always room to grow, right? My point in this meander is, we don’t know what happens after death. Could be nothing; could be everything. Could be better than this; could be worse. Whatever the case, the dead guy or gal has done moved on or out. I’ll keep my memories about someone, but I’m going to be honest about those memories; as honest as possible. And when I kick it one day, I expect at least one person to say, “Did you see what that bitch wrote about respecting the dead on his blog? What a jackass!”


  1. I feel the same way. Be truthful. When I go, I want everyone to talk about what a dick I was.

    And...have you ever noticed how when a teenaged/young hoodlum is caught, it's always his mother/sister on the screen boohooing about how he was a good boy that fell in with the wrong crowd?

    Ma'am, your son WAS the wrong crowd!

    So, yeah. Call em like you see em, Eric!


  2. Count this under "Everything I Know About Life I Learned from Anne Shirley" -- I've often wondered the same thing, and I think the best explanation of the whole "Speak no ill of the dead" phenomenon is from... ummm... I wand to say Anne's House of Dreams. She was speaking with an older woman about someone recently deceased and scandal at the funeral, and the older woman said something along the lines of "It's rather like kicking someone who can't kick back to point out someone's faults after they've died & can't do anything about it."

    Not, of course, that many of us would believe you if you told us our faults while we're alive and can maybe make some changes...

  3. When my mother died the eulogy was a total joke. It made her look like the best mother in the world, Mother Teresa, and Mary Poppins all in one. Sure, she was a good mother but there were so many untruths in the thing it made me sick. Being truthful is more important than waxing poetically.

  4. I've just usually kept my thoughts about the deceased to myself, until I'm alone with one or two others who knew TE deceased, and we'd have the REAL memorial!

  5. Putztown??? Personally, I have a summer house in Schmuckville.

  6. Like many things, I think the idea of "not speaking ill of the dead" was originally a warning. I'm willing to bet that it really means "if you say something bad about the dead King or other powerful person, you'll wind up dead!" Now I think it's more about respecting the living.

    The dead don't care what you say about them cause they're dead. Besides, wasn't FB created so you could speak ill of your friends and family?