My brother turns his ire to the recently deceased
This Saturday I went to the funeral of a man I was privileged to know, Lorenzo “Pat” Murphy. We only spoke a handful of times, and I can’t claim that we were close, but he was a man that left an impression. Around the office, we knew him simply as “Murph,” and his regular greeting, no matter the circumstance, was always the newsman’s same, gruff “What!?”
Murph was also, I learned on Saturday, a man who gave meaning to the saying, “a full life.” He fought in Korea. He flew jets. He spent 67 years of marriage with the Toronto Beauty queen he proposed to on the fourth date. He was friends with Barry Goldwater. He dined with Reagan. It went on and on, making the rest of us feel hopeless and puny by comparison.
After the funeral, I received a typical unsolicited email from my brother linking to a Glenn Beck “news” story about the Wall Street protests. I responded with the sad news about the funeral and a bit about what kind of guy Murph had been:
He was a grizzled old newspaper man, but what I found out today was much more impressive: he was also a war here in Korea, where he won the Bronze Star for bravery. He was also a man you might not have liked very much. He was a staunch liberal, and over the years he wrote a column that regularly pissed off conservatives and Republicans.
My brother provided the obligatory condolence:
Sorry for your loss of Pat Murphy. If he was your friend I’m sorry.
And then launched into what seemed like the equally obligatory job of ruthlessly attacking a dead man for his political beliefs:
It always perplexes me how a man who served his country and even won a bronze star for bravery embraces a way of thinking years later that opposes almost everything he won that star for: pride in the military, a belief in American exceptionalism and that America is the true force of good in this world. He died standing for the polar opposite of this. This explains how wrong liberalism really is to me and how it really winds up poisoning and ruining a once good mind.
But, I reminded my brother, Murph was a veteran, a man who knew patriotism more intimately than my brother ever will. There are, I said, “good people on both sides of the political divide.”
Not so, he says:
The fact is that liberals are mostly bad people and conservatives are mostly good, decent people. That has become greatly apparent to me over the past few years and no one has proven that more to me than Obama and the rest of the Democrat party.
I’m inclined to say that this kind of fucked-up-ness doesn’t need much explaining, but since this blog has been on hiatus, here’s a primer: My brother was apolitical most of his life, then 9/11 happened, and like countless Americans, it scared him into action. Political engagement is always, of course, a good thing. But over the years I watched my brother’s sudden interest turn into a rigid and extreme set of beliefs. More alarming was the ready supply of supporting arguments from the ever-growing conservative media outlets—Rush, Hannity, Savage, radio and tv, internet and print. It seems these days that, no matter how radical the notion, there is a verified “commentator” to back it up.
With his comments on my dead liberal friend, what’s so tough to stomach isn’t the crassness or disrespect, it’s the fact that my brother has lost his independence and self reliance. He never strays from the talking points. He poured his fluid mind into the mold of an AM radio jock, and it cooled and hardened into a block of thick obstinate metal.
Then again, maybe it’s the politics that did the doing. Today’s Right strikes me much as the 60′s Left must have seemed to the “silent majority.” It’s not just a set of ideas that draw the lost, moth-to-flame-like. It’s more active and menacing than that, more of a net cast into the waters. With my right wing brother, it seems more and more that the ideology has trapped the man.