Don’t politicize death; think first

08/30/18

By Duke Staff

As the beloved Disney film Bambi taught us when we were young, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” Who knew so many people still need to hear that advice, many of whom are far into adulthood?

With the recent passing of several notable figures, a surprising number of people have felt it is appropriate to immediately celebrate their passing or criticize those who are mourning. The most pertinent case of this has surrounded the death of Sen. John McCain.

McCain was a politician and celebrated veteran, who survived torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and chose to continue serving his country in the government in Congress. He held many different opinions, some our staff agrees with, some our staff disagrees with. Like everyone else on the planet, he was human and had his own shortcomings.

It was shocking then to see the vitriol that was spouted online after he died from brain cancer. One tweet from Glenn Greenwald, founder of The Intercept news website, said that remembrances of McCain were “ugly and coercive.” Others accused him of unspecified war crimes or blamed him, personally, for the deaths of American soldiers and foreign civilians. Some went as far to say the country was better for his death.

Regardless of how you feel about one’s opinions, dancing on their grave simply because you don’t agree with them is, in the words of New York Magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi, “childish and cowardly.” It adds nothing to the discussion and fails to acknowledge the complexity of each person.

Another example of this would be the reaction to the death of Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old college student in Iowa who was tragically murdered while she was on an evening run earlier this summer. The suspect in the case is a Mexican national, who law enforcement says was in the country illegally.

Instead of mourning the loss of a young woman and talking about the broader issue of women’s safety, many have seized her death as a chance to disparage undocumented immigrants and push forth their own political agenda. In doing this, they’ve ignored the Tibbetts family’s pleas to avoid politicizing their daughter’s death.

With Duquesne’s growing focus on civil discourse, these two examples are a reminder of how we ought to act and what we shouldn’t do in order to remain respectful. Don’t log onto the internet and spew wanton “hot takes” all over social media at the first opportunity you get. Respect the idea that some people need time to mourn, and realize that no one person is perfect. No matter your political leanings or personal beliefs, it’s always important to think before you speak.

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