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When we remember someone, what responsibility do we have to acknowledge the person’s faults, as well as their strengths?
These questions have taken on new resonance as the United States processes the death of former president George H.W. Bush. Amid the praise for his long career of public service, his leadership to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act and his general affability were reminders of Bush’s handling of the AIDS crisis and his campaign’s decision to run
the Willie Horton ad. And then there were condemnations of those reminders. (Warning, swearing below)
BTW, using the occasion of a person’s death to attack them isn’t edgy or cool, it’s childish and cowardly. You’re not Christopher Hitchens, you’re an asshole.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) August 26, 2018
Vox politics editor Laura McGann weighed in on the debate about the remembrances of George H.W. Bush in a recent article:
There’s always a debate in moments like this about whether it is appropriate to “speak ill of the dead.” Discussing Bush’s alleged behavior is not speaking ill of him. It’s not a slight or a smear. It’s part of his legacy, whether or not we like it.
This is a moment to look at the legacy of a man who held the most powerful position in the world and assess how he used that power. The rights of women (and men) to participate in public life without fear of harassment or violence is fundamental. It’s how we make our country greater. The more contributions from the more people, the better we become.
We’re talking about the art and craft of an obit.
- Jennifer Mercieca Associate professor, Texas A&M University and historian of American political discourse; @jenmercieca
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