I’m not exactly sure how to write about this. Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority and seminal leader of a group of people I think are completely out of touch with reality died today in his office at Liberty University. Of course, any death is met with a touch of sadness, as he is sure to have family and friends who loved him dearly. And on that note–a purely humanistic one–I give them my condolences.
I am not torn over whether his death is sad in that sense. I am torn over how to write about his legacy, since I am completely opposed to his conception of the “good”–that is, what is best for America and humans generally.
“I shudder to think where the country would be right now if the religious right had not evolved,” Falwell said when he stepped down as Moral Majority president in 1987.
I shudder because they did evolve. The religious right stands as one of the greatest forces against Liberal Democracy to come along during the latter half of the twentieth century. I see it as distinctly Un-American and anti-freedom. And its legacy is George W. Bush, Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney, unilateralism, decreased trust in America abroad, and a devastating war in Iraq.
It is the Moral Majority and its offspring that have doomed the Republican party to split into pieces with many of those who favor economic liberty feeling totally at odds with the Republican “Base” and its Fundamentalist stance on social issues. Evidence of this is in the Libertarian exodus toward the Democratic Party and the election of 2006.
Matt Foreman, executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, extended condolences to those close to Falwell, but added: “Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America’s anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation’s appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation.”
That said, he did a few good things, including building “Christian elementary schools, homes for unwed mothers and a home for alcoholics,” and he should be commended for them. He was just a man. Not a dictator, nor a murderer. He was simply a man who had a lot of influence over people who could have chosen not to listen to him, nor to work for him. That is, he isn’t totally responsible for his followers.
So, I’m torn. A human being has died. That’s bad. For while I disagreed with him on the issues, he wasn’t a mass murderer, nor a genocidal maniac. But his life spawned a legacy that soured our country. And it will take at least a generation to fix it.
I suppose, then, that his death is just that: a death. Jerry Falwell has died.