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!”