September 11, 2022
Queen Elizabeth II died in the late afternoon of Thursday, September 8, 2022 at Balmoral Castle, Scotland. As an American, the royal family doesn’t hold much significance for me. Other than the very public scandals, which can’t be avoided once they blow up in the media, I don’t follow their day-to-day lives. Nor am I surprised by the death of a 96-year old woman who lost her life partner last year and who has been under constant stress from a family who manages to keep the tabloids in business.
But, of all the comments over the past few days, one from a friend on Facebook sparked the idea for this essay:
Why can’t I point out that a 96 year old woman dying after living an entire life in the lap of luxury is not really sad without being called an asshole?
Why indeed? While this was certainly the most disparaging comment, it did ask an important question. Why is it wrong to speak ill of the dead?
First of all, the comment really isn’t attacking the queen. It’s attacking the people who are grieving for the queen. It’s invalidating their sorrow and negating the impact she had on their lives. No wonder the comment was met with hostility.
Which leads to the second point, know your audience. If you want to get your point across, the best time is not when your opponent holds the upper hand. Who gets more sympathy than someone who just died? Even for a queen, death is the great leveler. No one is immortal.
Besides, what is the point? Are you trying to convince people of something? If so, what? It seems this comment was very successful in showing the person making it wasn’t able to read the room and wanted to stir up controversy by saying something unkind. Are people so programmed for divisiveness that they can’t even let someone die in peace?
While I believe everyone has the right to express their opinion, I also wonder, do they have to? What happened to, “If you can’t say something kind, don’t say anything at all.”
Finally, I can acknowledge the Queen may not be a beloved figure around the world due to some truly horrific atrocities committed by the British Empire in years past. She represents some painful memories for a great many people. She also represents a continuity of history that stretches back a thousand years. For some, the rituals and traditions have a calming effect in a time of mourning. It’s not for me to say who is right and who is wrong.
Grieve. Don’t grieve. It’s your choice. My only advice is, don’t be an asshole.