Saturday, 2 PM
Senator Kennedy's condition, which appeared from early indications to be doubtful, seems much more promising as of several hours later. Reports that he himself made a phone call canceling a luncheon event are encouraging as is the report that he suffered "seizures" that may or may not have actually been stroke-related. Clearly, whatever the events of this morning were, they do not at this moment appear to be life-threatening.
It is in this more positive moment that I wish to reflect on an aspect of this morning that truly saddened me even as my heart was warmed by news that suggested recovery. I was heartened by the response of even some of the conservative media, as people like Pat Buchanan spent time praising the Senator for his decades of service to this country. Unfortunately, this positive aspect was more than overbalanced by the outpouring of hatred on the part of the FReepers who, on their own website, expelled such atrocious levels of bile into cyberspace that their own moderators had to shut down and expunge entire threads.
What makes people act this way?
I noticed this trend immediately this morning when a link to the initial "breaking news" was posted on DK to the Cape Cod Times. The commentary in "Reader Reactions" began with someone who offered that it was time for people to plan excursions to defecate on the Senator's grave, and grew more disgusting from there. The comments have now been removed.
On another site, Bare Naked Pundits, a FReeper who goes by the highly appropriate nom de plume "Philo T. Phlegm" launched into an attack on Senator Kennedy last week, apropos of absolutely nothing. In his hate-filled diary, he repeated an accusation that I have since discovered is a typical one among such people, that Kennedy killed Mary Jo Kopechne intentionally:
Teddy is a man whose idea of quality post coitus is grabbing his partner by the hair and holding her head under water until she expires.
I could quote more extensively from this jackass's post, but I do not wish to be responsible for making some of you ill. What possesses people like this to hang out on liberal websites is beyond me. I, of course, excoriated him for his libelous post, and was joined by several others. But this kind of obscene, malign language goes beyond mere politics, I think. It borders of something sociopathic. And it is not, I am afraid, limited to FReepers.
A Unitarian on Democratic Underground this morning noted that liberals acted in much the same way when Jerry Falwell died. I have not been hanging around on the blogs long enough to know, my husband has and he verifies the remark, at least as far as DU is concerned. My own reaction when he died was sort of a null set: I had no emotions for the man, and that was sadness enough. He was a man who made a living spouting hatred and evil. I'd have been lying if I said I was not glad that he would no longer be doing that, but I am loath to be happy at anyone's death. Even Strom Thurmond, a man who, like Kennedy, stood firmly for everything the other side detested (and who, like Kennedy, had a few skeletons in his closet, even if none had led directly to anyone's death), deserved some amount of respect and dignity at the time of his death.
You can hate the man and everything he stands for, and you can say so, even in a passionate way, without being insulting, disgusting, and bilious, and without stooping to the lowest of locker room epithets. And when a man has died, when there is pain and sadness all around, when those who knew him are suffering, that is not the time to act like yahoos and throw steaming piles of dung at the corpse.
It appears that Senator Kennedy will make a full recovery, and for that I and a large part of the United States will be very grateful. Those who are not, those who actually--and this is so hard to digest--would wish a man dead (and those who might have felt that way about Falwell): it might really be time to examine yourselves and ask, truly, who the heck you are. What has happened to you that has stripped you so of your own humanity? What has made you so hateful? Where is your soul?
And if you believe in God, you might begin to wonder also what He would think of all of this. Somehow, given what I've heard from believers about Him or Her, I don't really think He or She would be happy.