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Tale of Two Deaths

 Originally posted on Sayoni Speak

On a boring bus-ride home, I was just musing that last week was the week to die.

I am not being morbid, really – at that time on TVMobile, the un-switch-off-able source of entertainment that subjects you to the terrible soap operas whether you want it or not, they were splashing news about Suharto’s death. Not that no one saw it coming, because I’ll bet you they were working on the eulogy and the news-report the minute Suharto was committed to the hospital.

And of course, a week ago, Heath Ledger was found dead on the floor of his SoHo of a drug overdose. Heath Ledger, as we all know, was the handsome hunk who played the gay cowboy on Brokeback Mountain, and did a wonderful job of it. While his young and sudden death is tragic, it is not something I particularly cared about, Brokeback or no Brokeback, until this.

Fred Phelps and his merry gang of fundamentalists from the Westboro Baptist Church have decided that the best way to get themselves splashed all over the news is to protest poor Ledger’s funeral – just because he played a gay cowboy. This is the group that got themselves famous by protesting the funerals of random dead (and straight) soldiers, because they believed they were killed because God was angry with America for “supporting homosexuals”.

Okay, after reading that last sentence again, suddenly protesting Heath’s funeral doesn’t seem so far-fetched a thing to do, compared to what they have already done. At the risk of plagiarising Grey’s Anatomy… Seriously? Seriously?! How does protesting at funerals help further your cause anywhere? Even if you believe that Heath was wrong in his support of homosexuals, which you are absolutely free to believe in, protesting funerals is just wrong.

Suharto’s death elicited mixed reactions from people. While it is not nice to speak ill of the dead, the fact remains that Suharto’s regime was rife with human rights violations, despite whatever MM Lee said about him. I still don’t have much sympathy for him, dead or alive, and definitely do not agree with whatever he did. But that does not mean I would protest at his funeral. Evil, neutral or good – the family and friends deserve that space to grieve over the dead – because ultimately, we are all human. Suharo might have been a [insert expletif], but he is not inhuman, and deserves to die with dignity. His family, whether they were party to his politics or not, deserves the funeral to let go of him, with dignity and respect.

So why is it that poor Heath’s funeral is going to be violated by sign-carrying fundamentalists?

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January 29, 2008 - Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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