My father had terminal lung cancer. He fought like a Spartan at Thermopylae, his body riddled with chemo and radiation, his stomach filled with macrobiotic foods lovingly prepared by my mother, his mind steeped in the defiance of death as exhibited by Dylan Thomas who wrote the words that were buried with him, in his coffin:
“And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
My father was also a smoker for many years. He started as a young teenager in the 1940s when it was as common as breathing air, and only stopped five years before his death at 43. You could say that my father brought his illness upon himself, because there is no denying that smoking causes lung cancer, and lung cancer hastens death.
We would never accuse someone of causing their own death from lung cancer. We would never, if we were truly good people (and most of us are), smirk triumphantly about the sad lessons being taught to those who ignore science. No one, at least not to my face, dared to blame my father for voluntarily cutting off half a life. If they had, they would have regretted it.
And that is why I am having a very, very hard time with the reaction to Luke Letlow’s death from COVID-19 complications last week. The young congressman-elect from Louisiana, a Republican, was rushed to the hospital on Dec. 19 after his condition worsened. He died of a heart attack following an operation.
Letlow was a strong proponent of reopening the economy, a critic of the stark restrictions imposed on small businesses in his state, and for that reason, many on the left began to weave their narrative of “I told you so, he deserved what he got.”
You don’t need to believe me. Go to Twitter, and follow Vox’s Aaron Rupar, or any number of other people without blue checks after their names who found it appropriate to wag their fingers triumphantly as a man was being carried to heaven.
Letlow was not an anti-masker. His social media was filled with photos of him wearing masks, social distancing and taking the precautions we are all told to take. But because he was outspoken about his concerns over hidden COVID casualties, including the collateral damage caused when people lose their jobs and sink into irreversible depression, he became the left’s poster boy for “karma is a bitch.” To see it unfold was as unsettling as it was nauseating.
Of course, many of the ghoulish critics are trying to walk back their comments. Some, like Rupar himself, posted this self-serving explanation on his Twitter feed: “I mean it sincerely — Letlow’s death is tragic. It was also avoidable. It shouldn’t take tragedies for policymakers to treat the coronavirus pandemic with the seriousness it deserves.” The disingenuousness of this journalist is an insult to everyone who can read between the lines.
The left is not a monolith. There are decent people there, including many of my friends, who offered heartfelt condolences and eloquence. But the stench from the extremists in their trenches fills the air, with people celebrating a death that serves their partisan goals.
I’ll be wearing a mask, to protect myself from those toxic fumes wafting in from the left. And I will take comfort in the words of another great poet, who crushes all sarcasm and hostility with this eternal truth:
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at email@example.com.