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I turned 61 last week.
I don’t plan on joining the celestial choir any time soon, but birthdays make me think of the opposite end of the life cycle.
Every birthday morning, I have a somewhat ghoulish tradition of writing a mental obituary, composing my own epitaph since I don’t trust others to pen it for me.
We all should prepare our own “homegoings,” as my friends in the African American community call it, because there’s been a troubling trend toward speaking ill of the dead. If you can get your story out before the haters have their say, you’ve won the eternal battle.
This was brought home to me when I read the cruel things that were written about Kirstie Alley, who died last week from late-diagnosed cancer.
While she most recently sported blonde hair, most of us will remember her as the breathtakingly beautiful woman with the raven locks who replaced Diane in Sam’s affections on “Cheers.”
The character of Rebecca was the opposite of Shelly Long’s annoying and cerebral dilettante, filled with fire and fury and fun. She was a perfect replacement for Diane, even though the dynamic between her and Sam was completely different.
And while Long’s sort of humor was more along the lines of a sophisticated-but-neurotic Myrna Loy, Alley was the reincarnation of Lucille Ball with her physicality and willingness to look silly.
Alley appeared in many other roles, but she’ll always be remembered as Rebecca.
She was also a high-profile Scientologist. Up until recently, that was the only controversial aspect of this beloved comedian.
Then came Twitter, and Alley began to express political views that shocked the sort of fan who thought she walked in lockstep with their progressive outlook.
More importantly, she didn’t seem to hate Donald Trump. In fact, in some tweets, she endorsed his policies.
The Scientology thing was OK, even though it made some people squeamish because of the rather strange beliefs on psychotherapy (evil!) and ex-Scientologists (evil!).
Kirstie’s public battles with her weight were also endearing, because who doesn’t love someone who is honest about their personal struggles?
But when it became clear that Kirstie was a conservative, and possibly a Trumper, the dogs of war were unleashed.
I would follow her Twitter feed and see people write the most amazingly cruel things, acting as if she’d just declared her loyalty to ISIS.
People started showing, with pride, screenshots of being blocked by the actress as proof that she was a MAGA crazy who couldn’t take criticism.
When you delved a little more deeply, you understood why she’d canceled these folks: they were absolutely horrible in their attacks.
In some bizarre turn of events, the progressives felt betrayed by their beloved.
The breakup was ugly.
But the worst part came after her death was announced.
Mixed in with the many expressions of sympathy and sorrow were a large number of sarcastic digs about how Scientologists don’t think they can get cancer, and now isn’t she surprised?
They also dismissed her as a “Donald Trump Apologist” with her Wikipedia page immediately edited by some low-life hacker to read “Conspiracy Theorist Nut Job.”
This was only moments after her death had been announced by her grieving children.
I have to admit that I’m particularly outraged because I’ve seen the cruelty of the left much more often than I care to remember. In my own life, people I love have been targeted as proxies, and my inbox has filled with the most disgusting vitriol over the years.
I’m a very, very, very minor media figure. Most people have no idea who I am beyond “that crazy lady in Philadelphia who sort of looks like Sarah Palin.”
I can only imagine the things real celebrities like the aforesaid Palin are subjected to.
But this isn’t about left or right, to be honest.
This is about human decency.
When a person dies, unless they’ve left a truly toxic mark on society, their passing should be either noted with respect or ignored. Hatred has no place in epitaphs.
I am sure that some on the right are as guilty of this vice as the legions on the left.
I wrote about the phenomenon when John McCain passed away and condemned the partisan attacks from right-wing extremists. It is a shared inhuman flaw.
The point is that when someone ascends to whatever Heaven awaits, or descends to whatever depths he deserves, we should note that passing with grace, kindness, and a factotum of regret.
And if we cannot, we need to shut up and hide the demons consuming us from within.
Copyright 2022 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]