Respect For The Dead

James Lileks has an absolutely
brilliant piece on Paul Wellstone
pointed at all those who felt the need to heap criticism on the man upon his death. My response would be a little more curt than his, but the point would remain.

I read stuff here and there that took glee in Wellstone’s death. Some folk seemed to think that a refusal to bury the hatchet and mutter the funeral liturgy was a Brave Stance, that the times cried out for a Truth Teller who branded Wellstone as the treasonous hell-bound scoundrel he really was. But there’s nothing brave about that. There’s no consequence aside from a few angry emails, scowls in the comments section, removal from a few visitors’ bookmark lists. None of these people, if they had the opportunity, would say it to the face of anyone who had a loved one die in the plane crash. Hey, our prayers are with you, but I still think the man should writhe for eternity under Satan’s hoof. Sorry, but someone has to say it. They’d hold their tongue – either their own sense of decency would win the moment, or shame and cowardice would close their throat.

Of course, most commentators never have to worry about meeting anyone who suffered from Friday’s tragedy.

Paul Wellstone may have been a member of the left wing of the DNC, and he may have been someone who pursued policies that would have been incredibly shortsighted – but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a damn good person. You don’t get the loyalty of so many people just by saying the right words. Paul Wellstone was the kind of man who inspired such loyalty by being a good person. He did things for battered women, the homeless, and those who most needed help. Yes, he was a radical, and yes he was on the wrong side of a lot of issues. But at the same time he was never disingenous about what he thought. He treated his constituents with respect, even those who disagreed with him. In short, anyone who had ever had the privilege of meeting Senator Wellstone would agree that all politics aside, he was a damn fine human being. The final words of Mr. Lileks’ piece sum up my feelings quite well, so I’ll let them stand:

Then that goes for all who believe as he did – including the young campaign aide on the trip, a guy in his early 20s. He believed a lot of nonsense. When I was his age I believed a lot of nonsense too. Perhaps the world would have been better if I’d gone down in a bog while I believed stupid things; there was no guarantee I’d ever change my mind, after all. There’s certainly no guarantee this young man wouldn’t have changed his.

On Saturday we learned that this young man was a very close friend of a member of my wife’s family. It was one of those phone conversations where you get the entire gist by watching your wife’s face, listening to the few words she musters. I suppose I should be pleased, in an abstract way, since this means that there’s one less person to spread what I believe is a counterproductive approach to economics and domestic security. I suppose I should refuse to call him a good kid too, since he believed what his mentor believed. I suppose I should put on my best Mr. Potter face and snort that he got what comes to fools, and content myself with the knowledge that the Republic is better off without his breed of starry-hearted Tinkerbells.

But I can’t. You want to give it a try? Knock yourself out. Yank open the morgue drawer and shout at the dead. And if that strikes you as Brave, and that’s what you call Principle, and you believe this is the necessary reaction to the senseless expense of human life:


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