A philosophical moment, if you don’t mind.
I know I’m going to die. Surprise, so are you! I also know that with every tick of the clock, my time grows shorter. Not long ago, I seemed to magically awake and realize I had more days in the rear view mirror than in the windshield. I don’t like it, of course, but I have no alternative. It was then I began to understand the power one has in death.
My life has not been a perfect one, and I certainly have made my mistakes. However, when I do pass, I hope that amidst all the clutter of a chaotic life, I would be remembered as someone who tried to be fair, who didn’t trade on the despair of others for gain, and who didn’t take glee in mocking others just to reach a level of notoriety.
At times of late, I think that for us all, the best that could be said is,”(s)he was a good person that tried to leave behind a few smiles”. Not a bad epitaph as these things go.
When we die, everything about us is out there for the taking. Any defense for our actions has to be done in the living years. Even then, there are those among us who have no defense for what they did and how they did it, nor should they. They will have friends, colleagues, sycophants and others who will only bring up what they perceive as “positive moments” because, they will admonish us, it’s “not nice to speak ill of the dead”.
Perhaps not. However, it is fair to speak about the legacy one leaves behind, and face it with courage.
My grandfather was salt of the old world soil. Around me, he was tough yet loving. I’m told the man never had a soft spot in his heart for anyone or anything until I came along. Yet, in later years, I learned many things about him that to this day are disturbing. I accept his flaws. I don’t love him any less, despite the fact he has been gone now for a very long time.
While he suffered no fools and stood fast in his beliefs, he never went out of his way to hurt anyone. He never gloated over others. He never publicly lashed out against anyone he didn’t care for. He kept it to himself. I don’t and never will care for what his opinions were on many a topic and person, but I respect him for consciously making the call in keeping it to himself. Of course, he lived in a very different era, but that is really no excuse.
Today marks the 2 month anniversary of Mom’s passing. While I knew this about her in life, I never once heard a single person say a single negative thing about her then, and not since her passing. Not once. That’s because while she had her opinions, and believe me, some of them were very strong, she did not believe sharing them in a manner where they would hurt someone. She was a small town girl, who never harbored any ideas of being famous, or using something as confusing to her as social media in a manner of hate. Thus, to her family, she will always be a shining example of what we can do when we choose to use our voices and actions for something other than hate.
Today, there are plenty of things being said and written about Rush Limbaugh. His defenders will not for one instance remember the damage his mouth caused to so many people. They certainly won’t even dare to bring up how Ronald Reagan destroyed the “Fairness Doctrine” and paved the path for Limbaugh and other vile purveyors of broadcast hate speech. His detractors will not for one instance understand the impact he had on an industry and how, for better or worse, he changed the broadcast business. Each side is dug in deep, and won’t give an inch. Therein lies a good part of the issue.
That issue will, and should be, his legacy. Divisive in death, as he was in life, because that is what he chose. A very intelligent man, he knew exactly what he was doing when he referred to a then young teenager named Chelsea Clinton as a dog. He was yearning for reaction and notoriety when he joined the despicable and evil word “Nazi” to women who were fighting for equality. Every insult toward people of color, those of a different sexual orientation, those who weren’t “American enough” for him, all were part of his act to reach greater paydays and fame.
When we die, the totality of our lives is there for all to see. Nothing is hidden, and nothing should be held back. We must be seen in a bathing light of truth, warts and all.
Which makes the continued glorification of a man who traded in misinformation, disinformation, lies, rumors, propaganda and demeaning opinion all the more distressing. It’s also, sadly, revealing as to where we are as a nation and as a society.
Many of us are still unable, or unwilling, to say we were wrong, or that someone we followed was wrong. In many ways, this could be a cleansing moment for those who were, and will remain, devotees of the Limbaugh mantra.
Let’s be clear. Now is the time to certainly feel sympathy for his family, and to not take glee in the fact he’s dead. Those hammering away at him, happy and giddy that he died of what is a painful and wretched demise, should check the mirror. Being as verbally hateful as he was in life is not a good look for anyone.
Understand, I’m not in any stretch campaigning for Limbaugh to be forgiven, or for those using his own words to discuss who he truly was to “soft shoe” the totality and suddenly wrap figurative arms around him as “misunderstood” or “someone who was only acting and playing out a schtick”. On the contrary. All I’m seeking is not to use the same hate he spewed as a revenge motive. Do that, and you’re no better than he was.
We need to be better. We need to take advantage of these small moments that will allow us to build on being a better society. There has never before in our history been a time when we absolutely, without question or pause, must accept people and situations truthfully for what they are and then build on it. We must stop being afraid of the truth.
We must be honest with ourselves, and in our acceptance of fact. Legacies must be accepted in their totality, without fear or favor. In the instance of those who have cut a wide swath across society such as Limbaugh, what they did and how they did it must make us think, consider, reconsider, be honest with ourselves, and then seek out our better natures.
It is thus time to come clean on who and what Rush Limbaugh was. It is time to accept that he was a racist, a fearful sexist who obviously had no place for strong women in his life, someone who traded on the physical and mental disabilities of others for ratings, one who used the power of his talent and pulpit to lead the easily swayed from the truth about what was happening to America only for the purpose of being viewed as on the “Right” side.
By accepting Limbaugh for all that he was, we can become better people and a better society. By refusing to do so, we remain weak, fearful, hateful, arrogant and egomaniacal.
In death, there can be a healing, but only if we wish it. I hope that when I exit this earthly stage, I will have left behind some small element of wisdom or a positive memory that others can build on. It won’t all be roses, as there will be those who will speak ill of me for things I did, purposely or accidentally. I can see them already lining up for a final shot and spit into the grave. I accept that, as we all should. I take full responsibility for my actions, and hope to do better as the final days count down.
We should, however, while still breathing and talking, seek a higher level of what our legacy will be. Limbaugh never did. He was defiant, arrogant, confrontational to the end. Imagine how things could have changed if only in those waning days he recognized his power and, Heaven forbid, actually apologized to those he slighted? Certainly, it would have been seen by many as a useless gesture. It may have been just that. However, it might have left behind a legacy where his most ardent followers would have been forced to examine not merely Rush’s words and actions, but their own as well.
Of course, we’ll never know.
Perhaps in death, Rush Limbaugh will do far more good for a nation, and a society, than he ever did in life.