It has been a busy time at my day job and sometimes almost an entire day can pass by before I catch up with the news of the day. Occasionally, a lot of things happen. Today was one of those days. Rush Limbaugh went public with his sex fantasies. The Koch bros are suing a widow over control of the Cato Institute. The War on Women suffered a defeat in the Senate. My Governor in Maryland signed the law approving Marriage Equality. Mitt Romney continued to say and do stupid things. President Obama called for an end to Oil Company Welfare (and found time to talk about sports). And Andrew Breitbart went on a walk and died.
Others on the Front Page have commented on Breitbart’s passing. And I would agree, in general, with the advice that one should not speak ill of the dead. But, that advice is not a reason to avoid the work and impact of a public figure when they pass. And Breitbart was a public figure with a record of doing great harm to our Nation and our politics. His death does not free us from the obligation to call out and condemn that damage. His life’s work was to embrace and push any tactic, distortion, threat or lie that might help him “win” any real or imagined political battle. He embraced a rejection of fairness, integrity and honor in political discourse as virtues to celebrate–as long as they helped him win a news cycle, embarrass a foe or score a cheap political point. The product of his life’s work was public and full of harm. Our world is poorer, sadder and a more damaged place because of the choices Breitbart made and the work that he did. His passing ends the damage he can continue to do, but not the harm that his legacy and his fellow travelers will continue to inflict upon our politics and our Nation. So it goes.
I wish that he had not died. In part because he leaves behind four children, who I’m sure saw his non-public side and will miss him. In part because I was looking forward to the ass whooping he was going to get in the Shirley Sherrod libel trial. And in part because I wish that he had a chance to change his path–that he had a chance to have his own “Road to Damascus” moment. Other paid shock troops of Wingnutopia made that choice and it was one that Beirtbart could have made as well. Such a transformation was never likely, but while he was alive there was a small chance that one day he might turn away from his grifter-for-hire-hit-man path. His death closes that door.
When I heard the news of his death, Hieronymous Bosch came to mind–especially his Triptych of The Garden of Earthly Delights. The outer panels (the shutters that open to reveal the triptych) are of the creation of Earth. When opened there are three panels. The Left Wing, depicts the Garden of Eden and earthly paradise. The Center Panel depicts life on Earth with all of its many pleasures and temptations. The Right Wing (shown above) depicts Hell.
The Right Wing as Hell seemed a fitting image as I thought of Breitbart, his life’s work and his passing. If he is fortunate he is now in a void of emptiness or with the FSM drinking stale beer and engaging in risky sex. OTOH, if Judeo-Christian mythology informs your view of the afterlife, then Breitbart is likely living in Bosch’s Right Wing for all eternity.
I’ll hope he’s with the FSM, at least in that myth he still has a shot at redemption–or if that fails, bad beer.