Political giants: Should we rush to condemn controversial figures?

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Following John McCain’s untimely death, leaders and politicians from all around the world reached out with their deepest condolences for the McCain family. Some, however, swiftly went on to bash his ideology, policies and character. The stark contrast in the millions of Tweets, posts and articles on his death bring up the question: Out of respect for the deceased and their family, how long should we wait before calling into question the political actions they made during their lifetime?

One key aspect to consider when forming an opinion is timeframe. When someone dies, it is important to allow their family to grieve and celebrate the life of the deceased, without worrying about anything else. One’s status as a politician or celebrity shouldn’t change this, and just being in the public eye does not mean that they should be treated any differently. Their families deserve the same respect and dignity that would be offered to anyone else. However, others believe that due to a public figure’s fame and status, it is acceptable to comment on their lives in harsh and demeaning ways no different from criticisms when they were alive. Their fame and recognition entails them to be part of the public opinion, even right after their death.

Magnitude is another factor that needs to be considered. Each political leader has left their own unique mark on our political landscape. One school of thought argues that the achievements of their life should be taken into account when looking back at their lives. What they accomplished in life should determine our level of respect for them. Yet our own biases may only determine what we personally see as accomplishment. On the other hand, others believe that what someone achieved in their life should have no effect on how we remember them. After all, you cannot take your achievements with you when you die. Some say to be indifferent to their deaths. In other words, they should be of no concern to us as they are removed from our daily lives.

Yet we must remember that we should still have human decency and restraint when we speak of the deceased. We should not defile their image just because they can no longer respond. The dead should be celebrated and remembered, not bashed and defamed. We must always speak with respect no matter who has passed, and ultimately, the judge of their character should not be our inherent vices, but rather history.