One of the most depressing aspects of modern politics is the way that people see the death of a fellow human being not as a time to set politics aside and show respect but as an opportunity to score cheap political points. This ranges from the sewer scum level of Twitter trolls gleefully celebrating a political opponents’ death to sanctimonious attempts to utilize the deceased as a weapon to attack others.
There’s been a lot of the latter around the death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Probably the slimiest, not surprisingly, came from CNN’s Chris Cilizza, who used Powell’s death to smear the entire Republican Party. He wrote an article called “The Colin Powell Republican No Longer Exists.” But if the point is that Powell was a moderate who rejected “extremism,” then I could just as easily write an article called “The Colin Powell Democrat No Longer Exists.”
Powell obviously had his personal reasons for starting to vote for Democrats (which he did with Obama, long before Trump entered politics.) I can disagree with that decision without attacking him or millions of others, but that’s beyond some people.
Naturally, there was also sniping back and forth over the big topic of the day, since Powell was fully vaccinated but it was initially reported that he’d died of complications from COVID-19. Everyone was trying to score points over that, pro- or anti-vaccination. In fact, his vaccination status was irrelevant. Powell was 84 and suffered from several conditions that make people more vulnerable to COVID even if they are vaccinated, including a form of blood cancer called multiple myeloma. A study found that 55% of sufferers fail to fully respond to vaccination because of their limited ability to produce antibodies.
There are many tributes to Gen. Powell online and there are many criticisms. You don’t need me to point them out to you. But I will link to this column by Kurt Schichter, who is also a military veteran. While not a Powell fan, he recognizes his accomplishments, balances his praise and criticism, and does a good job of explaining why Powell might have moved from Republican to Democrat, and why it had to do with his own personal viewpoint and larger changes in government and the culture rather than tens of millions of Republicans being horrible people.
I’m disappointed that former President Trump used the occasion of General Powell’s death to air grievances he had with General Powell. There are times, when it’s best not to say anything than to say something that is harsh, especially when the target of the comments is deceased. Even if you’re a former President.