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Tuesday, May 15, 2007
So, Jerry Falwell has died. I will say, without reservation, that the world is now a better place.
People will tell you that it is wrong to speak ill of the dead, but I am not prepared for any fuzzy, soft-handed retrospectives into the life of this man. He simply does not deserve them. Jerry Falwell was an awful human being, and his death came decades too late by my reckoning.
Falwell was, quite simply, wrong about everything.
It's an astounding record, if you want the truth. You can look at almost any issue where he was on the record, and he was on the wrong side of it. I'm not even talking about political stuff necessarily, or abortion. I'm talking choices that should have been (and were) glaringly obvious to most people.
In 1965, when Falwell was in his thirties, he gave a speech criticizing Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, which he cleverly referred to as "the civil wrongs movement."
Regulars on his his TV show back then included well-known racists like Lester Maddox and George Wallace, and in 1958, in reference to the landmark desegregation Brown v. Board of Education decision, he declared, “If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made…. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.”
There is just nothing that warms the heart quite like divinely inspired bigotry. That may also explain his position on the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Where do you suppose he stood on this matter?
If you guessed "in favor of" give yourself a cookie.
During white minority rule, Falwell urged American Christians to buy Kruggerands in order to support the regime. Even fellow men of the cloth were not spared the loving hand of Falwell, as he called to Bishop Desmond Tutu a "phony." He later claimed to have misspoken, explaining he meant to call him a colored agitator who needs a-lynchin'.
All right, I made up just that last part.
Fine, he was a bigot, some people are raised that way. He was anti-gay, which again, in your personal life is your own business, but he used the bible to justify his fear. He was against public schools, trade unions, really believed the Clintons killed Vince Foster, was anti-free speech, was on the record with the assertion that when the Antichrist shows up, he will by necessity be a Jewish male. Let's not forget that he was terrified that one of the Teletubbies might be gay, and yet was close friends with disgraced minister Jim Bakker.
Wrong. About. EVERYTHING.
Let us go back a few years. It is only a couple of days after the events of September 11, 2001. The nation is still in shock, mourning the losses, and united like at no time since World War II. How would our great healers, our men of God help us make sense of these tragedies? Some tuned to Pat Robertson's 700 Club for guidance and understanding. Falwell was a guest, and offered this:
"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"
He went on to add that he saw the attacks as God's judgment on America for "throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked."
All these years later, I read these words, and all I can think is what I thought back then: Fuck you, Falwell. Die.
Now he's gone, and I'm actually happy that he's dead. Someone else will take over his grotesque ministry, but hopefully it will lose some of its luster without the cult of personality surrounding Falwell. This was a terrible human being.
I don't believe in heaven or hell, but I almost hope Falwell was right, and I am wrong this time. I hope there is a place where awful, exploitative hatemongers are sent for an eternity of torture.
You've earned it, Jerry. You will not be missed.
posted at 11:48 AM
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