Speaking Ill Of The Dead

Hello dear reader(s)!

The purpose of this post is to challenge the widely held belief that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.  It is a great cultural taboo.  It is so ingrained, that the death of a well-known figure can almost instantly erase any flaws that they once had with the general public.  As a result, history gets erased, or its value diminished.  It is wrong.  Here is one name to prove why speaking ill of the dead is not always a bad thing.

Adolf Hitler.

Adolf Hitler likely suffered with mental illness.  Adolf Hitler committed suicide.  Should Adolf Hitler be a sympathetic figure because he is dead?  No, the man presided over many many deaths and many, many more lives ruined.  His death doesn’t change what he did.  Just as the deaths of your loved ones shouldn’t change how you view them, their great qualities, and even their flaws.  Yet this taboo of not being able to speak ill of the dead does just that.  It makes us try to paint people who did real harm to the world as a sympathetic figure.  It makes the horrible effects they have had on other people get essentially erased from the history of their lives.  And it is wrong.  Any sane and rational person can weigh the horrible things Hitler has done against any successes he had, why can’t we do the same with other figures?

In addition to erasing the terrible things were responsible for from history, the concept of speaking ill of the dead has another effect.  It prevents people from being able to express real relief at the knowledge that the person who has just passed can no longer harm anyone.  It has the power to turn a very flawed figure into a myth for the advancement of a flawed agenda.  I will now give some examples, where I will very much be speaking ill of the dead.  Try and turn off your visceral response of disgust as I do so and open your mind to the possibility that these people being dead does not make them saints.

Let’s start with the first person’s own words.

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well.  One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas.  They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.  I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer. Maybe it ought to have fewer. And maybe some — you know, when you take more, the number of blacks, really competent blacks, admitted to lesser schools, turns out to be less.”  – Justice Scalia

Written in his dissent against the ruling that made anti-sodomy laws illegal, Lawrence v Texas, Justice Scalia said, “Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home.  They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”  

Yet when this obese, 79 year old bigot died and I was relieved that he no longer had the chance to decide on laws that would hurt people he didn’t like, I was the one who was called into question.  I was attacked because I was happy that the man who would not have retired, died of natural causes at an age over the average lifespan in the US because I refused to concede that he was not a terrible person in life, and had an effect on hurting millions of lives in this nation.

Sorry, not sorry.

Let’s move on, shall we?

Just Say No.” – Nancy Reagan

Now, I did not celebrate Nancy Reagan’s death the way I did with Scalia.  Mainly because at age 94, it didn’t really do anything for the country.  But I sure as hell don’t mourn her death either.

But Josh, what’s wrong with “Just Say No”?

So glad I asked myself.

Beyond steering the conversation about drug abuse and addiction away from a public health issue and into a criminal, “Just Say No” is the ultimate in victim blaming.  That neighborhood you live in torn apart by a drug war my husband is waging in your streets?  Maybe if the people in your neighborhood had just said no, this wouldn’t be happening.  People getting hooked on substances and not being able to stop?  They should have just said no.  Illegal drugs landing you a felony conviction and mandatory minimums pushed by my husband when the rapist down the road does less time than you?  You could have just said no.  And one of the largest, we can gut the mental health system in this country more than any other administration because people can just say no.  We’ve taken away all economic opportunity in your neighborhood and made it virtually impossible to live any other way than the drug trade?  Just say no.  As a result of you choosing the drug trade, we have militarized the police to target your neighborhoods near exclusively despite the overwhelming evidence that you were being supplied those drugs to sell from somewhere else and sold them to people across all areas, races, and economic backgrounds?  Guess you should have just said no.  A felony conviction in your state takes away your voting rights and the disproportionate targeting of the drug war results in more minorities being imprisoned and then disenfranchised upon release that only helps take opposition votes out of elections?  Could have Just Said No.  We can push and push and push our legal, terribly dangerous drugs over safer illegal drugs because those terrible legal drugs are something you could just say no to, therefore they aren’t that dangerous at all.  We can literally destabilize sovereign nations by sending in our military and militarized DEA, resulting in government corruption, once peaceful places being turned into war zones, and a flood of people trying to escape those conditions and becoming the immigrants our party so despises?  They should have just said no.  You wife drank herself to death and hid that from you until any chance to intervene was too late because of the shame and fear she felt because she wasn’t able to just say no?

Fuck you Nancy Reagan.

Just Say Bye

And don’t even get me started on the myth of her husband.  That’s another twelve posts.



Author: Josh Wrenn

Cancer survivor, wanna-be artist, musician, author, and all around good guy.

22 thoughts on “Speaking Ill Of The Dead”

  1. Ugh totally agree. Even people who aren’t famous, they shouldn’t be glorified and remembered as great people if they just weren’t. When I think about it I really hope no one goes around saying untrue things about me when I die, even if it’s just to be polite – there’s no reason to lie. It’s so annoying!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Exactly, I hope I was a good person and people have nice things to say about me, but I hope that is because I tried to live it. I will want them to acknowledge my flaws too though, because I know I am human. I want them to remember me, not some idealized version.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Being English, the only comparable death was that of Margaret Thatcher, possibly the most marmite – you either loved her or you hated her -figure in 20th C British political history. Political foes who’d denounced her all of her life, did the most nauseating of u-turns after her death. Her death was her final triumph, to re-write her own history. And it will happen again.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Probably right. At least with Dubya, and Thatcher, and Reagan, they are and will be out of the nuts and bolts of policy when they die so the whitewashing means less. With Scalia though, he was entrenched in one of the most important positions in government when he died. The whitewashing of his history has an immediate and awful impact.


  3. Mr Scalia took more trips, paid for by his wealthy friends and corporations, than any other justice. He as a regular speaker at neocon organizations that did business before the court.He was a walking conflict of interest. His son, for example, worked for Bush in 2000 when he was the deciding vote on giving the election to GW. He was a”strict constructionist” except when it conflicted with his own and his family’s financial interests. Examples: He intervened in the decision of the Florida Supreme Court to follow Florida law and recount the ballots in 200. So much for “states rights”. He took the position that a non-human legal entity, a corporation, was entitled to individual rights of the Bill of Rights. Rights that were specifically written to protect INDIVIDUALS. The guy was a fraud.
    Josh. I wrote a similar blog last month when Antonin passed into oblivion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was a fraud, and a bigot, and he had power, so when he was no longer in power, I celebrated. Oh well. Wow, you even had the same title!!! I hope you know I wasn’t trying to steal your post or ideas, although I don’t think we are the only ones who feel this way, but still…with the same title, I hope you know there was no intention there.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, anyone can be sympathetic from a certain point of view.

    However, I agree with what you’re saying.
    Death is death and it doesn’t make someone a saint if they were human when they were alive.

    People don’t want to think of a shit person as being shit, or someone who could be a jerk as being a jerk when they pass because it can hurt. To not remember someone as they were does a disservice to both them and oneself. Better to be honest about it and let it be raw as you come back from it better.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I absolutely agree with this sentiment, I think though it is human nature to “forget” about how a person was in life and only focus on the “good” after they have passed. The media is absolutely guilty of this and plays a lot into people’s emotions by glossing over the reality and focusing more on perception.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I mean, you don’t want to walk up to the deceased’s family members and tell them how much of a POS you thought the dead person was, but there is a right to examine the life of a person, both good and bad (not in the face of the grieving).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, there still needs to be a sense of decorum. However don’t place someone on a pedestal because of circumstance when clearly their actions do not warrant it.

        Not only does this go for politicians and celebrities but also “normal people” that are propped up and used as a rallying point for a cause.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Beelzebub, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Nero, Caligula, Pol Pot, Josef Mengele, Idi Amin, if you’re bad enough, long term history will tell your story straight. Not that Tony and Nancy were in this class, but they won’t hide.

    Liked by 1 person

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