Thursday, February 18, 2021

Dance With the Devil in the Pale Moonlight

If you recognize the title from that line in the original Batman movie (Tim Burton and Michael Keaton), which came out in 1989, then that is the metaphor I plan to use to describe my sentiments in the wake of Rush Limbaugh's recent death. If you listened to his show on a regular basis, chances are you don't read my writing and wouldn't stumble across my blog except as a secret sexual fetish...

I have lots of thoughts about Limbaugh, but I don't plan to list any of his myriad sins or call him names or relish the irony that he died smack dab in the middle of Black History Month just over two weeks after his final sign off. I don't care that he was charitable. I don't care that he was generous showy with his wealth. I don't care if he had some last minute come-to-Jesus/Rosebud moment on his deathbed either.

I don't really believe in Karma, and his death doesn't change that for me. On the same day, I learned that a woman who had been living under a bridge near my parents died. She kept all of her worldly possessions in garbage bags and in an abandoned shopping cart. I think she sometimes slept in a donated tent or atop a pile. I know that my Dad would sometimes offer her money for food, which she declined. I know that others offered to assist her and that several times when she was taken to an indoor shelter, it was short-lived because she usually returned to the bridge.

Who else died in the past year since Limbaugh was paraded out in front of the world to receive that Presidential Medal of Freedom? I wonder if any of these folks who have been falling all over themselves to laud Limbaugh have any sympathy for them.

So if you are reading this, I'm pretty sure that you get the point of the title--Rush Limbaugh was the pale moonlight. And his fans who have pulled out their sackcloth and ashes (while chiding the rest of us for our apathy and impassiveness) have been dancing with evil all of these years. My advice is to let them mourn this lunar return, let us not dance euphorically on his grave, lest we become what he represented.

Which was a man who earned infamy and a lot of money for the vile things he said about people of color, women, Muslims, Democrats, and anyone else whom he could ridicule and belittle with impunity. I refuse to trade places with him and his followers by dredging up his hypocrisy to justify any ill will I might feel about the 30+ years he polluted the airways. He's gone, the end.

Last month, I took my daughter with me to church to participate in an outdoor community service project. It was one of those charitable gestures that we applaud ourselves for engaging in because it makes us feel good (and we get to post pictures of our goodness on social media as proof). What folks like Limbaugh would call virtue signalling; whereas folks like my Dad would call it living our faith. I brought her with me to teach her a few lessons about life.

The first lesson: life ain't fair. I cannot explain why there are unhoused people living on the street within blocks of the Capitol or in the doorways of churches or under bridges in discontinued tents donated from the expensive outdoor living store. I cannot explain why some people felt so disenfranchised and forgotten that they booked flights and chartered private planes to fly here to storm the Capitol building six weeks ago. Nor can I explain why their feelings of entitlement somehow supersede real deprivation, desperation, and hunger.

The second lesson: do no harm. Be mindful of the words that you speak. Be intentional in your actions. Be what you want to see in the world, because both your words and actions will often reflect the world you strive to create around you.

Third lesson: our journey on this plane of existence is finite. We don't know why life isn't fair, but since we know that it isn't, then what really matters is what we do between the dates that get written in eternity. You will be remembered for everything, maybe not by everybody, but a significant portion of your life will be recalled for its impact on others. And that could mean your good work gets overshadowed by controversy, scandal, and notoriety. Or, your worst moments may get obscured by your generosity of spirit. How do you want to be remembered?

If there are a lot of people left behind who can't say anything good about you, as well as a chorus of others who recount your life in terms of how offensive you were and how it articulated all of the deplorable sentiments they also hold...then there really isn't much I need to add. I was never that good at writing fiction.

Instead, I am choosing to remember the woman from under the bridge. I don't know if anyone ever got the details of her story beyond her name. I hope someone will write about her tenacity in insisting to live on her own terms, even if we never knew exactly what those terms were. Since we may not be able to recall the specific details of her life, perhaps we can look inside ourselves to determine what more we could have done for her or for others in her predicament. Should there be a social safety net that provides services for people or do we let them fend for themselves? Do we drive past or walk over the undesirable aspects of life that we can't understand, or do we stop to help? Do we collect the trash, power wash the spot, and forget? Or do we remember that on the same day, a man who built an empire of mean-spiritedness also died, and because I knew exactly who he was, the last lesson I want my daughter to glean is:

Never dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.

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