Saturday, August 14, 2010
Speaking Ill Of The Dead
I did some research and found that the saying originated in Ancient Greece. At that time, people believed that the spirits of the dead could hear what you were saying and punish you if you maligned them in any way.
In modern times, most people think that it is just good manners since the deceased are not present to defend themselves. In any event, I fail to see how death erases any of the damage done by people while they were alive. What about Hitler, Stalin, Jeffrey Dahlmer, Ted Bundy and other famous villains? Did all the damage they did just go away when they met the Reaper?
•George Carlin referred to this phenomenon in a routine on his album On the Road:
"Hey, when you die, you get more popular than you've ever been in your whole life. You get more flowers when you die than you ever got at all. They all arrive at once, too late. And people say the nicest things about you! They'll make shit up if they have to! "Oh yeah, he was an asshole, but a well-meaning asshole." "Yeah, poor Bill is dead." "Yeah, poor Bill is dead." "Poor Tom is gone." "Yeah, poor Tom." "Poor John died." "Yeah, John." "What about Ed?" "Naw, Ed, that motherfucker, he's still alive, man! Get 'im outta here!" "
It seems that when a person shuffles off this mortal coil, a nostalgia filter suddenly snaps into place and everything a person did that was wrong or harmful during their life is forgotten. My parents are both gone and I loved them. My mother was a very good woman, but she made a very bad mistake with the way she handled me when I became pregnant. I will never forget the pain I felt when she wanted me put into the maternity prison as soon as I started showing because she was afraid I might corrupt my younger sisters. This was the same loving mother who told me I didn't have a right to a white wedding. My father? Well, he was a womanizer, an underachiever and a pathological liar (and those are the nicer things). Gee...I am speaking ill of the dead. But that is who he was.
Now don't get me wrong. I loved Mama and and there is much about my memories of her that I cherish. I also know that she did love me, but also thought, erroneously, that she was protecting me and my sisters. But she missed the boat with this one. I once had a friend tell me that "your mama was a rose, but a rose has its thorns." I had a conversation with my mother in a therapy session..well, the therapist played the part of my mother..and I think the truth set us both free...me to realize that I was not a bad girl for life, and Mama had the burden removed from her shoulders of being some kind of picture of perfection. If anything, the fact that she died at age 46 prevented a lot of the mellowing that comes with aging. She was just a woman, a mother, a human being and she wasn't perfect or, in the case of my unwed pregnancies, right.
I posted about reunion, yesterday, and about how those who adopt can sometimes wreck a budding reunion relationship with their insecurities and demands and I cited my own experience. Whoops! Someone read my blog who really shouldn't read my blog and now I am, again, on the down slope of the roller-coaster. Well, what am I supposed to do? Lie? I got a heated lecture on "speaking ill of the dead" and I say WHY? Death ends a person's mortal life. It does not erase the harm they have done in their lifetime. The people I spoke of were adopters who acted like, well, adopters.
Don't get me wrong. I do, honestly respect the feelings the adopted people have for those who adopted them. However, I don't feel that I am under any obligation to feel the same way. I don't necessarily hate adopters. I know a few that I actually like and it leaves me torn. But I do hate the act of adopting and the sense of entitlement that accompanies that act. That is a long-established fact about me and one that the person in question knew. Hell, anyone who know me, knows that. To be honest, I think she was just waiting for me to do something to give her an excuse. She has never resolved her anger towards me. And, I am not one of those "good barfmuggles" who apologise for what they didn't do and lay down like a rug to be walked on in the name of motherhood.
So, I have to choose between being honest and being "polite." I choose honesty. And if the truth hurts, then so be it. The most respectful thing anyone ever did to me, when I was in my own LaLa Land, was to treat me as an adult and tell me the truth. For that, I will be eternally grateful.
There is a thin, fine line between caring about feelings and ignoring the truth. I guess I crossed that tenuous barrier and the bitch of it is that I am not sorry.