Some local Scaifenetters complained about the rather mild negative remarks of people like Keith Olbermann when they commented on Tony Snow's death. Of course, they conveniently forget their own ghoulish commentary regarding the deaths of liberals they don't like, or their unnecessary political shots when commenting about Ted Kennedy and his battle with cancer.
Still, is it right to make a negative comment (or two) when someone 'high profile' passes away? The simple answer is 'yes', because being honest about someone is the right thing to do, but the less simple answer is, unless they were a complete jerk, those comments need to be tempered, and probably need to be said after a bit of time, to allow those who loved the person to grieve unfettered by thoughts less than kind. Olbermann made several highly complimentary comments about Snow "with whom he disagreed," and interestingly, in an ironic twist of fate, his comments - which I echo - point to exactly how Snow so completely differed from the right-wing in one key area. Snow was able to separate the message, from the messenger.
The idea in discussion is to debate the merits of each side's point, not to personalize each side's proponents into 'us' and 'them', while very often ignoring the point. The right very often desires the exact opposite - attacking personally (such as in the Swift Boat attacks). This is/was the antithesis of Snow - and something some on the right found infuriating, that he wouldn't demean the press personally, off-camera, he would instead stand up for his peers. Snow epitomized what we on the left wished we'd have seen in so many more on the right, passion with a sense of decency. Snow, as I've come to know AFTER his death, was a kind person, but not kind in the Ann Coulter sort of off-camera smarminess where she talked about not really meaning it with Al Franken - but then went on camera to butcher the character of one person after another. No, Snow stood up for people, stood up for good conduct. I didn't always like what he said on camera, but I rarely, if ever, saw him take off after someone personally. His like is too infrequently encountered in the world of politics, and we are cheaper for it.
Which brings us to Heath Ledger. Last night, "The Dark Knight" premiered. Ledger, as I hear, was superb, as he was a superb actor quite often, I suppose this shouldn't be too surprising, but it points to the tragedy of too many actors/artists, their on-camera/on-canvas gifts are overshadowed and perhaps even borne of a harsher off-camera reality, a 'dark night' when the cameras dim. Ledger wasn't a hero, he was, like John Belushi or Chris Farley or Freddie Prinz Jr. or Karen Carpenter for that matter, a person haunted by demons. Stardom appears to those of us sitting in our comfortable suburban world, to be easy street, and we wonder how people can go so wrong. Yet, while it is easy financially, and it seems that the worries of the 'rich and famous' in Hollywood - are often trite and shallow - the reality for some is that the very talent they draw upon comes from a skewed and painful history, and a very very negative sense of who they are. Ledger was a talented young actor, with a troubled off-camera life. I admire his talent, I would not suggest admiration of the troubles he struggled with, nor creating another and ultimately profoundly dishonest and disrespectful unreality about him. It is my guess that someone like Ledger, like someone like Snow, would rather we learn from his missteps as much as we might like to learn, should learn, from his graces.