I know that convention suggests that it is inappropriate to speak ill of the dead. Still, even with seventy years on the planet, there was not quite enough time to speak ill of Rush Limbaugh while he was alive. If you missed it, Rush died earlier this week after a battle with cancer and reality that lasted for years. It was this brave face that he hid behind a microphone long enough to redefine the qualifications for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The former game show host who chose to honor the former radio host with the highest civilian award described it this way: "It was an idea that we had that a lot of people suggested to me, frankly, a lot of great people of our country, largely Republican. It was an amazing night because the Republicans went wild and the Democrats sat there, but they all respected Rush."
Well, maybe not "all." Representative a Democrat from Illinois tweeted at the time, “There is no 'both sides' to this issue. Rush Limbaugh is a racist who uses his platform to inspire other racists. Rewarding him with a #MedalOfFreedom is a slap in the face to every person who ACTUALLY deserved that honor.” People like Ralph Bunche, E.B. White, Helen Keller, Neil Armstrong, Jesse Owens, Martin Luther King Jr., Earl Warren, Clare Boothe Luce, Buckminster Fuller, Jacques Cousteau, Arthur Ashe, Colin Powell, Rosa Parks, Simon Wiesenthal, Harvey Milk, Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, John Glenn, Bill Bradley, Sally Ride, Gloria Steinem, Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and that's a pretty solidly cherry-picked list of a much longer one dating back to 1963 when John F. Kennedy first started passing them out.
Actors, politicians, sports figures, activists. Not self-styled hate mongers working from the safety of their subterranean studio bunkers. A year ago, when the presentation was made to Mister Limbaugh, I marked the occasion with a selection of choice quotes from the mouth of the beast. I may have missed a few. Like, "The only way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons is to use them." Or perhaps, "The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies." Maybe, "Women should not be allowed on juries where the accused is a stud."
I could go on. Rush Limbaugh's career was packed with such wit and wisdom. We didn't need the grotesque irony of handing a medal named Freedom to a man who sought to undermine it for so many. And maybe about now, if you're still hung up on that "but he's dead" thing, we can all make lists of people without whom the world would be a much nicer place. I might appear on one or two of those lists.
But not nearly as many as Rush Limbaugh. Vaya con Dios, Rush. The world has a little less hate without you in it.