I have to admit, the death of Andrew Breitbart is both a tragedy and a challenge. It's a tragedy, obviously, for his family, friends, and colleagues--for the loss of so much potential when a life is cut short. Breitbart's death has occasioned some mockery, but such mockery involves a judgment that is not for us to make, but for God alone, and fails to recognize the pain that death causes family and friends of the deceased.
I'm sorry for his family, friends, and colleagues, and for Breitbart himself--it's a terrible thing to die so young. But without justifying the inappropriate reactions on the left to his death, Andrew Sullivan's post describing such reactions as evincing "sickness" comparable to that demonstrated by a federal judge in Montana who used his court-provided computer to forward a joke suggesting that President Obama's conception took place at a party with booze, interracial sex and bestiality--well, no. That grossly oversimplifies a cynical reaction to a complex moral situation--and that presents the challenge.
Sullivan writes elsewhere that "[w]e were often at crossed swords online but tried not to make it personal. We spent the last time we were together sharing favorite pop music on our iPhones on an airplane." I've no doubt; Breitbart would have viewed Sullivan as a peer in the Internet blogosphere, and someone in the same "game." (No disrespect to Sullivan intended; just that they both could be described as large-scale bloggers, who leveraged their platforms into political influence). But as to non-peers, Breitbart made it personal when he felt he could get away with it. He cost Shirley Sherrod her job, falsifying the content of her speech by selective quotation that reversed the point she was making, and using carefully edited, doctored video as "proof," and, undeterred when he was caught, promoted similar stories against Planned Parenthood and ACORN. That's more than being what Sullivan described Breitbart as, a partisan who "doled it out relentlessly."
Ms. Sherrod took the high road today, saying "[m]y prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart's family as they cope through this very difficult time." That's the right thing to do, and bless her for it. But there was a lot of very legitimate anger at Breitbart for his irresponsible, reckless, and cruel tactics. Such anger should abate in the face of tragedy. Still, I can't help but think of R.F. Delderfield's line, from To Serve Them All My Days, about what he called "graveside hypocrisy": "To hear some people talk at a funeral, one would suppose dying was limited to the chosen few." (P. 407, 1972 Simon & Shuster ed.)
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