Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rest in Silence.

As I rolled up my bike to the intersection of Wilson, Nolen and Willy streets, this wild-eyed man coming from the other side looked out at rush hour traffic and mutters, “God, they’re crazy.” Then he sees me. “They’re going to kill somebody with those cars! It’s terrible, brother.” And just as I got to the other side of the intersection, my brakes faltered, sliding off the wet rims and sending me floating helplessly into the turn lane in front of a car about to start. Safely harbored on the bike path, I looked over my shoulder for the man, now on the far corner by Essen Haus screaming into car windows.

This is how loosely-wired mystics used to become prophets – chance contact with someone who writes down things that seem oddly important. But my new friend was a true holy man with a fair warning. Death might be a bit of hyperbole, but given the sheer number of cars funneling through this tangle at that time of day, the chances that at least one of them will at some time be involved in an accident causing at least moderate injury is more likely than you’d like to believe. There go grim statistics for you. If nothing else, they prove “God, they’re crazy!” man was no lord of whatever circle of hell that spews forth empty sloganeering and egoist hatred.

This brings me to what I really want to talk about: Jerry Falwell.

It’s widely believed you ought not disparage a man of the cloth, you especially ought not disparage the dead and if you speak ill of the very recently dead you’re just asking for a whoppin’ from mama until you learn to act right. I’m throwing this out this window, for a couple reasons.

First, the criticism exemption comes from the same line of reasoning that a man without religion can never be a moral entity. Phooey. I could enumerate reasons, but anyone reading this probably doesn’t need to be convinced. As a non-believer, pastors have no shaman power I see as worthy of either awe or special treatment. Even still, I’d still give them benefit of the doubt for being people who took a very low-paying job with the hopes of helping people in some manner, like, oh, say, Americorps members. The Rev. Falwell, however, was no poor servant of the Lord, so forget it.

As for being dead and very recently so, J.F. is excluded from the common courtesy. The news business has terms like “public figure” for people who can’t expect the same kind of privacy rights as ordinary citizens, which is why the paparazzi usually stay out of jail. Falwell certainly falls in the colored portion of this Venn diagram, but he has his own black spot in the nucleus. Somebody who made intermittent news by mocking the dead – either directly by declaring he knew how their souls would be judged or indirectly like the victims of 9/11, who were apparently killed by the gays and the feminists – has no right to expect nothing but rosy remembrances following his own termination.

So here it is: I’m glad you’re dead, you sadistic bastard. You did a number of good things in your years, I’m sure, but never enough to make up for the evil you propagated on this earth. I don’t mean to injure your family and friends during a time of sorrow, but I hope it provides at least the smallest bit of solace to the people you trampled over with your power to know that worms will soon be chewing through your brain. Although, in all fairness, you committed a great act today with nothing but expiration. With the rapidly aging population that some scientists predict will cause a “death shortage,” you did something today, May 15, 2007, which will in some small way benefit all future Americans. You died at a reasonable age.

That’s a grim reality, that last bit, at least as grim as the monstrous numbers of auto accidents in this country. But both of those things are real honest-to-whomever social problems that have to be confronted, unlike the make-believe crises of to which the Rev. Falwell dedicated his life. Now that I’ve gotten my hate paragraph out of my system, I don’t really wish for Jerry to be tortured in the lake of fire or anything like that. But don’t ask me to stand and salute when his coffin rolls by.

You know what would really be fitting? A moment of silence. It’s something he never gave anyone else.

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