Why I won’t post my thoughts about John McCain’s death

I know what you’re thinking. If she won’t post her thoughts, what the hell is this? I will not speak about this man, my opinion on him, or even how I feel for his family right now. A human being has died, and while I have many thoughts on the matter, I am choosing to start a new tradition: not saying anything. At least in public. If you want to discuss it over a coffee or a beer, sure. But NOT here.

When a public figure dies, invariably two things happen, very close together. First, an outpouring of support. This definitely happened with John McCain. Liberals and conservatives alike all hopped on to talk about how he was a hero. Something about memorials brings out the gushiest in people, doesn’t it? Before social media, it was just how people acted at funerals. Like, in death, the person can do no wrong. It may be out of a kindness to the family, or just the rose-colored glasses of our memory of someone, but even the harshest of critics get SUPER soft when someone has passed away.

Unfortunately, when you treat a public figure like a God, you are setting even their memory up for failure. Invariably, they will have done something hurtful. (No, I will not talk about what it was for John McCain, Google it if you somehow don’t know). This isn’t specific to any type of person. Every person you’ve ever met has made mistakes. But if there is enough blind positivity out there, there WILL be someone who is hurt by that.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say there’s a public hero out there who has passed. Let’s say he’s practically perfect in every way (think Mary Poppins meets Fred Rogers). But let’s say he was an emotionally distant spouse who didn’t recycle. People who have dealt with toxic marriages and people who are passionate about the environment WILL have that “But, wait a minute …” moment. Some may be utterly cruel about it. Some may even show happiness that someone has died. Some may have good points. In part, though, we have to realize that these criticisms were born because of our super-gushy funeral-glasses.

I grew up the child of a local semi-public figure, and as a result, I’ve never been able to separate anyone, even those I’m the biggest fan of, from their humanity. I went through life having people approach me and ask if I knew how lucky I was (I WAS, but that was odd to hear from strangers) to be his daughter. When he passed, the positivity was overwhelming. But invariably, negativity will always come with something that positive. And it was soul-crushing. It made me wish the outpouring of love and praise had never occurred because then nothing was in my control.

My grief wasn’t mine. It belonged out there, to the world. And it didn’t matter at all that I was just a sad girl whose dad had died. It didn’t matter that this person was mine in so many ways that nobody could understand. I was just a cog in a competing narrative.

So, maybe this is my curse. Whenever I see an outpouring of “RIP” remarks, I get nervous. When will this turn?, I think. It happens for everyone, and it will happen for this person somehow. And I can’t help but think about this person’s family — frozen, terrified, afraid to express their grief, and afraid that their grief will never be solely theirs. I think about them every time. And I don’t care who they are — I don’t want that for them.

So, even though in the past I have fallen victim to posting about the death of a celebrity (because apparently we all just have to as if we’re public figures ourselves) I’m out. I can no longer be part of this mass lie that people in the public eye aren’t human beings. I can no longer ignore the image in my brain of their families scrolling through these messages, hoping for comfort and then locked in a prison they never asked for just because they loved someone.

So, no. I have nothing to say about John McCain. Except that I hope the people who love him are okay right now.