Rush Limbaugh died today at the age of 70, ridding the world of a voice that has done more harm to the institution of democracy and the human value of compassion than almost anyone over the past few decades. If there is a hell, he is in it; if there is not, he is nothing.
When famous and terrible people die we are often reminded not to gloat, that grave dancing is never a good look. I understand why people may feel that way — that human life is precious, and every person born into this world deserves a base level of empathy, and even those who have done bad things should be treated with forgiveness and grace. Rush Limbaugh did not share this belief, obviously, as he devoted his life to vilifying people less fortunate and more vulnerable than himself.
I don’t share this view either, when it comes down to it. My belief is that the dignity granted to the dead is conditional on what they did in their life. Forgiveness is not given for free, it must be earned through at the very least a token showing of remorse. To the best of my knowledge, Rush Limbaugh never did that. He died as he lived, indulging humanity’s worst tendencies to fear, anger, excess and tribalism. The world is a better place without him.
Listing Limbaugh’s sins would take more words than anyone should waste on his corpse, but I’ll provide one small example which speaks to my belief that grace requires reciprocity.
This was not a good man. This was not a good person. His was not a life that deserves remembrance in a positive light, and anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit.
There is value in looking back at Rush’s life, of course. He was a driving force in changing the goals of the conservative movement in the United States from “consolidation of wealth in the hands of the few” to “consolidation of wealth in the hands of the few and also the extermination of every non-white person.” His considerable platform and charisma did more to further those goals than that of most of his peers, save only his long-time friend Donald Trump. We are living in the world that Rush helped create and will be fighting for decades to undo the harm he caused. The only saving grace is that now he’s in a box in the ground.