This morning, I woke up to the news that Rep. Elijah Cummings had passed away from “longstanding health problems”. He was just 68. I was immediately struck by how young he was. I’d always imagined him to be older. Politics can age a person quickly, and Cummings had been a politician for the better part of his life. I suppose it was inevitable that he might age more quickly than the average male.
Opening Twitter, I braced myself for the onslaught of condolences, syrupy tributes, and ugliness. As usual, it did not disappoint.
As we spend the next few days memorializing Cummings, I think it is important to remind each other that we need not be ugly about a person in the immediate wake of their death. The instant flood of hate from the Left when prominent Republican figures like George Bush or John McCain die has always been repulsive. Conservatives have never been shy in saying so. So I find it particularly distasteful to see many self-proclaimed conservatives on social media today taking the opportunity to dunk on Rep.Cummings and express their disgust and hatred towards him.
Pardon my Canadian French but that is some tacky bullshit.
I understand that Cummings’ ideology was fundamentally different from his compatriots on the Right and none of us are ignorant of his most recent kerfuffle with President Trump himself. He was working to impeach the man. He did and said things that many find repugnant. Understood.
But let us not forget that Rep. Cummings also did many things that most good people would find admirable. Whomever he was when he died, we should not be so quick to dismiss the role he played in civil rights politics over the years. We sit in our comfortable homes on our pricey electronic devices playing “keyboard cowboy” and calling it activism. Cummings not only literally marched and fought for the restoration of constitutional rights to Black Americans, but he also lived through the era we now point to as one of our greatest successes.
Let us also not forget that he was a human being. In a statement following his death, Mrs. Cummings had this to say about her husband:
“It’s been an honor to walk by his side on this incredible journey. I loved him deeply and will miss him dearly.”
Please do not forget that in all this, someone has lost a family member. Someone is genuinely mourning. Someone is sad. In the daily grind of a 24/7 news cycle and perpetual outrage, it is too easy to forget that the public people we love to hate and hate to love are actually indeed just that…people. They have lives and people who love them. They have family dinners and date nights, church services and school events. When they’re not on the public stage producing soundbites they’re just doing the normal things the rest of us do every day. Whether or not their politics line up with our own is irrelevant. In death, men like Elijah Cummings deserve at least a brief moment of respect. Certainly their families do.
Conservatives who don’t seem to have any sense of irony have been taking gleeful shots at Cummings all day. As I write this, Rep. Cummings has been dead not even eight hours. It is understandable that he is not a respected man among some political groups, but that doesn’t mean it is appropriate to express glee mere hours after his passing. Even President Trump managed to summon up respectful condolences for the man who was determined to see him impeached.
My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings. I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2019
It really is okay to simply offer condolences and move on with your day. There is absolutely nothing productive about insulting the dead while their families are making funeral arrangements. You can despise his job and his political role and still respect the qualities that made him a national figure in a time when Black men were not exactly welcomed onto the national political stage.
You can talk about all of the things you hated about him. Just wait. It’s not hard. It only takes a modicum of self-control. If you don’t have anything nice to add, then simply shut up about it for 24 hours, at least. That’s a thing you can do.
I will never understand the urge to dance on the grave of political opponents. You don’t have to participate in the glowing praise. You can simply choose not to participate at all.
The man is dead now. He literally has nothing else to say about politics, Trump, or anything. He has no influence. He can’t impeach anyone anymore. He can’t do anything. He’s dead.
Let him rest in peace for one frikking day before you put on your tap shoes and head for the cemetery.
For crying out loud.