Dick Cheney against a flag backdrop

Not dead. Yet.

In the post, “Cheney is Confronted About Imprisoned Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou,“ jamesjoyce made a comment.

Upon R. Cheney’s death my flag will not be lowered to half mast. May he rot in hell.

I was going to make a snarky comment about him never dying. But he will. And, for the first 24 hours of his death the right wing will chastise anyone who uses the opportunity to vilify him. This tactic is primarily directed to empathetic humans. The right will scour tweets, comments, news programs, Facebook posts and video clips to find anyone who shows happiness at someone else’s death, no matter how vile that person has been in life. “The libs can barely contain themselves, they are jumping for joy, it’s disgusting!”

There will also be a lot of self censorship on the left. Official commentators will want to rise above it all and hope that by being civil, the other side will display the same civility upon the death of an icon of the left. Still others will admonish people, “Don’t sink to their level.” A number of people see dancing on anyone’s grave as tasteless, no matter how vile the person was.

So, here’s an idea: Let’s speak ill of the pre-dead now. Before they die.

Pretend you are a time traveler and this is a loophole. You can share your thoughts, emotions and potential actions before the event you know will happen. In the process you can now worry about external criticism and or self censorship.

Here is how it would work.

  1. Write the obit you would want to see, “He had a black heart and he lead the country into a dark place where our values and our constitution were destroyed in these ways…”
  2. Describe the sadness or joy that you might be experiencing. “When he dies I will be very sad. That means that he will no long have the possibility of being prosecuted for war crimes.” Or “I will be happy when he dies because Satan needs more demons.”
  3. Finally, we could talk about the actions you will take, like James Joyce did, upon his death. “As a response to this man’s actions, I will donate money and time to “The Military Profiteering Crimes Investigation Fund, two organizations that support journalists doing research on torture documents, and purchase a sticker of Calvin peeing on the head of Dick Cheney for my pick up truck”

During the first 24 hours following his death you link back to your thoughts about the dead person. Technically you can say, “Hey, I’m not saying anything bad about him NOW. I wrote this months ago.”

The MSM always prepare their obits in advance, they know what they are going to say and will use careful neutral language like, “A polarizing figure,” “controversial” and  ”arguably the most powerful Vice President in modern history” but your future obits don’t have to be that way. You can detail actions that you think need to be included that might get left out of neutral speak. It might also get you to fund that profiteering crimes fund now so that qui tam laws can be applied by the time he crumps. Then the official obit can include the multi-million dollar judgement against Halliburton that impacted it’s stock and profits in the weeks before he died. That would be a nice send off, especially when the judgement nets you 15%.

The recreation of the legacy of powerful figures in America is a full time job for some people. Did you know that there is a group of people who want to have monuments or buildings named after Reagan in all 50 states? That doesn’t even count St. Reagan’s deification on Fox News nightly.

Centrist coverage of someone like Dick Cheney means the middle and extreme upsides are included, but extreme downsides are usually left off. Example, word choice is important will they say enhanced interrogation, or torture? This is the time when people really do need to hear it all because the death is the official start of the legacy.

For my obit? Right now I’m reading Richard A. Clarke’s book Sting of the Drone for this weekend’s Book Salon. It’s fiction, but he attempts to make the people real, not caricatures. I’m not a, ‘He’s evil” kind of person. I recognize actions and attitudes that I think are morally repugnant. I have ideas of what is demonstrable bad for America and our future. I want people to hear these thoughts now and I want them to get carried forward into the future. If I don’t keep reinforcing them now, will my views about what is morally repugnant and wrong for America might disappear. I don’t want people in the future say, ‘Well, pretty much everyone just accepted that torture was necessary and justified.”

If we don’t remember, comment and refuse to let zombie lies and myths take over, someone else will create the narrative.

My friend Will Bunch wrote a great book, Tear Down This Myth: The Right-Wing Distortion of the Reagan Legacy in it he points out myths people came to believe because of the drive of the myth makers.

It started out with calls for people to be “civil” continued on into canonization. It doesn’t have to go that way, unless we disengage and let their narrative win. But here’s the deal, we don’t need to make stuff up about what they did, we can just use their own words and actions against them.

White House photo by David Bohrer, public domain