On Judging The Dead

Maybe it’s the Catholic in me. Maybe it’s being raised in a world perpetually on the brink of nuclear warfare, as most of my generation were, or being raised by people who were raised by people who grew up during the Depression, when everything you have can be gone in an instant.

Maybe it’s the small-d depression, taking all the ugliness of the world and swallowing it whole and letting it sit in my stomach like a marble.

Maybe it’s all of those things together, but when I die I fully expect to be judged by the worst things I’ve done, not the best.

This isn’t a contest. You don’t tally everything up and decide that the book I edited for the WWII veteran and the bread I baked for the refugees next door make up for the friend I hurt by calling them out in public, or the times I yelled at my kid, or the way I detonated a relationship on purpose. I can give all the change in my pockets to the homeless. It doesn’t somehow cancel out the things I said to my parents when we were fighting.

I have fucked up aspects of my life flatter than hammered shit and I don’t expect forgiveness for any of it. I don’t expect the good things to balance the bad things out. I’m not okay with anything I did to anyone — forgiving yourself gets used too often as a way to avoid just not sucking, far as I’m concerned — but I am completely, entirely, 100 percent okay with being judged by it.

We do this thing where we don’t want people to be complicated. We all do it, personally, in our own lives, making our great-uncle out to be some kind of saint when we have no idea how he treats his wife behind closed doors, making it impossible to mourn honestly the entirety of someone’s life once they’re gone. What if your asshole relative was a war hero and there are statues in his honor? Where do you put your grief then, when people are throwing him a parade?

Those complications are confounded a thousand times when it’s a national leader we’re mourning. Those people should be judged by the trail of the dead they left in their wake. Obama should be judged by the children of Yemen and Pakistan. It’s not rude or anything to say that the smoking road to Baghdad is George H.W. Bush’s legacy, as are the dead of AIDS who couldn’t wait for the GOP to pivot to basic humanity and curing diseases.

Bringing those things up inevitably brings the defense of “oh yeah, would you like to be judged by the worst things you did?” So let’s answer that: yeah. I’d be okay with that. It seems fair to say she rescued two cats but Christ, she was a dick to people a lot of the time. Any idiot can have a high point.

How low was your low, though? That’s the question should be asked, you show up at the gates of Heaven or Hell.

A.

One thought on “On Judging The Dead

  1. Michael Storey says:

    I read you twice
    I send you to people.
    I don’t know if you are three people with a super computer or if you are as you portray yourself.
    I do know that your thoughts are thought out, that you write well, and that your thoughts show caring about others, and the future and that you care about your daughter.
    I sincerely hope that you do not stop writing.

    Like

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