For all those who have not heard in the last couple of days, recent ‘twists’ in the situation involving the passing of Justice Scalia have led some outlets on the fringe to create a fiction that Obama had Scalia killed, Clinton or someone else had him killed, or that he was murdered for some particular totalitarian purpose. This brings me to the topic of deaths and how people try to justify a meaning in the death of someone, whether they be someone they love or someone they hate, it is not an uncommon thing in humanity to believe that someone died for a purpose, especially when the death is brutal, sudden, or untimely (timely for some).
In regards to my father’s passing, we had several people offer their theory as to why God, why Satan, or why the universe took my father. Some people gave their expectation out of the idea it would show sympathy or love, others because they felt Dad was important and needed to be useful in all his existence, others maybe out of spite or ill feelings, regardless many people gave their interpretation to why Dad died. For me, I might want Dad to have died for a reason, but the situation of my mortal life is that I live without perfect knowledge, the fact is until I am dead and talking to my father once more, I WILL NEVER KNOW why. Perhaps God ‘needed’ him, but I scoff at the idea of God (or any god for that matter) needing a mortal, my Dad was a great man, don’t get me wrong, but not even he had a pride or belief that God needed him, rather he needed God.
Others suggested his time was up, and the clock struck the hour of his return to God’s side. Strange this one is, because it implies a weird arbitrary status to God, where God just randomly decides “it’s time for Timmy to die, I’ll kill him through CANCER. Brilliant, no one will realize I planned this.” It’s a stunning combination of making God evil, and yet trying to say that Dad is good in God’s hands. You cannot have it both ways, that being God cruelly kills us in painful and awful ways, and then will treat us well in the next life. An imagery of a man begging to a woman walking away comes to mind. He is on his knees saying “Baby, I’ll treat you right this time. Don’t walk out on me baby!” It’s a disturbingly vain interpretation of God, better than the God is weak and needs Donald McKinney reason, but still a disturbing one nonetheless. I understand the intent is to say it’s okay to be powerless and you can trust God, but the words here are just in the wrong order to do any good.
One that I wonder people think about is if Dad ‘deserved’ his death for some great sin, or if Mom or I did something to precipitated his decline, as if God is punishing us through the loss of dead. No one has said this to me but I have heard it at other funerals, when the person was not the best of souls. Honestly this one is just depressing, gives God more evil to God’s identity, but most tragic of all, it lays the blame in death at the dead’s hands. How awful in your mercy you must be that you would mock and insult the dead, fresh to their families in their loss. Regardless of how wicked the soul might or might not be, give the family their hour of grief. I am talking about people who die from diseases, not injuries from stupidity (self-injury through ignorance), accidents, or attacks.
A Perverse Want
With the recent attempts to revision Scalia’s death, it’s important right now we set out the facts of the case. Scalia’s family waived the autopsy, presuming the 79-year old died of…old age or a health issue. Meanwhile, in the conspiracy community, speculation of an evil plot to take over America, something that hasn’t happened in the last 7 years of Obama, is now being speculated. He’s been patient, and finally decided to get Scalia. DO PEOPLE NOT UNDERSTAND EVIL? Sure it can be patient, but now is the WORST time for Obama do complete a villainous plot to take over America. He would be acting in peak anger during a political season, during a Presidential Election cycle. That would lead to massive unrest if his hands were ‘caught in the cookie jar.’
Even Donald Trump has floated these theories, by saying ‘pillows usually aren’t on someone’s face while they sleep.’ GREAT, just add that to your “Weapons of Mass Destruction weren’t in Iraq” comment, and “Bush let 9/11 happen.” Look, I sleep with my face buried in my pillow because laying on my back is uncomfortable. Sometimes I lay on my side, but most nights, my head does not have the pillow directly under it, in the normal position. As for WMDs in Iraq, there were chemical and biological agents, our soldiers got affected by them in the cleanup phase of the Iraqi War. And after Hussein regime got most of the weapons to Syria, it’s strange that after Assad supposedly gave up his arsenal, that he and ISIS continue to use chemical agents and biological weapons that weren’t produced in Syria at any point, but rather Iraq. And with the final conspiracy float, the National Security Apparatus is still dysfunctional, better in some ways than 2000, but still bad in other ways. Competing agencies, like competing businesses, have an investment in strategic secrets, like locations of operatives, enemy threats, and their assets.
Death Conspiracies Are Rational to Ponder, But Not to Believe
In the void of my Dad’s voice, his wisdom, and his laughter, of course I want to believe that something personally took my father from me. Whether it was the Doctor, God, or the Devil, it is rational to contemplate ‘that the universe is against me.’ But post-contemplation, when the facts are limited and I know the Doctor did all he could do, Dad’s spirit was listening to Mom and I and fighting for as long as we told him to, and nothing tragic happening to kill Dad in those lingering moments, but me saying to Mom, “it’s time,” I realize that I cannot blame anyone. There is no target for my anger, no peak frustration to hurl at an individual, group, or being. There is rage, depression, sadness, frustration, tears, and fists to throw, but no one to receive them in a manner that justifies the throw. The fact is that Dad’s own body hurt itself, and Dad’s conditions in his final days obscured his own perception of pain. It took three DIFFERENT things to completely remove my Dad’s ability to fight and stay alive. His stroke diminished his brain power and fighting will, the kidney stones obscured his tolerance of pain by placing his body in pain constantly, and then the herniated bowel to end his life quickly and viciously.
I could blame God for a lack of warning signs, or the Devil for the obvious vindictive pattern of ailments my Dad was hit by, or blame the doctors and hospital for delaying my Dad’s kidney stone procedure and possibly affecting his pain awareness. But then I realized along the way something more tragic: In 2011, Dad had a sudden heart scare, where his heart rate was above the stroke level and should have been causing heart attacks or death. He suffered neither, went through a surgery where we feared him dying, and he recovered fully. But throughout that time, Dad missed the messages of the Death Flag, but Mom and I saw them in the Doctor’s words, the terminology they used to describe Dad’s physical state, and nervousness his nurses had, as well as the doctors had, on his condition in that temporary crisis. From that point forward, I realized that everyday I had with Dad was a blessing, because he should not have survived that surgery, or been unaffected. Everyday he had from that point on was the gift of God, because I thought and I can see in scientific terms, why Dad had a chance of death during that crisis.
After Dad died on December 11th, we came home and drank with friends and tried to laugh and feel some energy from the gathering of friends in our home that night. After everyone left, I told mom what came to me that night amongst friends. Dad’s stroke made him vulnerable to more strokes later on, and the damage dealt by it had been severe in many ways, likewise, Dad’s high blood pressure and obesity had placed him in a physically vulnerable condition. At some point, his Scoliosis would have made him a cripple or near-crippled. Of all the possible normal outcomes for Dad’s life, this brutally quick one was the least painful one he could have experienced. Was it good and were we ready? NO, but could it be that Dad was given the best death he could have, without putting Mom or I through tough choices, terrible heartache, and watching him suffer? Possibly, it’s the conspiracy I believe after all. And unlike the Scalia conspiracy, or anything Donald Trump says about George W. Bush (like him or not), this one can be true.
This is why I have been stoic these last months. I have become a son who has had to think about why his father’s death happened, and how to rationalize it in a way to move forward and feel not relief, but ease of the burden on my soul. And the reality is that I had 4 years with a man who despite his terrible conditions in life at various points, growing up poor, surviving abuse and a broken home, despite heart issues and a stroke, lived the life he had, however short it was, to the fullest everyday and proudest he could be of it everyday. He, like Justice Scalia, was proud of his life, and lived without fear of what enemies, foreign or domestic, material or spiritual, could do to him. Why fear that a good man is dead now? His image lives on in each of us who met and loved him. Why fear that tomorrow will be our own last day? What can the enemy do to me that hasn’t been done to my heart or mind already?
Like my father, Justice Scalia had a strong faith he relied on and embraced in his pursuit of his life. People can knock one’s faith, but both men achieved a sense of purpose, a feeling of joy, and a life of fulfillment by embracing that faith. Their conspiracy to believe that something greater than themselves existed inspired them to be better than themselves constantly. Their conspiracy to live a life believing that Hereafter is real and that accountability is meaningful led to them being men loved (and maybe hated) for their deeds, usually done to help people, to aid their friends and foes alike, and to embrace life to the fullest.
We have, as a species, a perverse want to conspiracy, to believe that trickery is being done against us. But the reality is that this is mostly our own minds tricking us, and if we want to, we can let our minds stop harming us, and instead help us move forward, baby steps at a time. I have chosen to do so and Americans need to choose to do so with Justice Scalia. Just like Donald Trump needs to do so with everything. I wonder if he thinks the only thing not destroying America is himself?
Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.
Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly. But to go away from among men, if there are gods, is not a thing to be afraid of, for the gods will not involve thee in evil; but if indeed they do not exist, or if they have no concern about human affairs, what is it to me to live in a universe devoid of gods or devoid of Providence? But in truth they do exist, and they do care for human things, and they have put all the means in man’s power to enable him not to fall into real evils. And as to the rest, if there was anything evil, they would have provided for this also, that it should be altogether in a man’s power not to fall into it. Now that which does not make a man worse, how can it make a man’s life worse? But neither through ignorance, nor having the knowledge, but not the power to guard against or correct these things, is it possible that the nature of the universe has overlooked them; nor is it possible that it has made so great a mistake, either through want of power or want of skill, that good and evil should happen indiscriminately to the good and the bad. But death certainly, and life, honour and dishonour, pain and pleasure, all these things equally happen to good men and bad, being things which make us neither better nor worse. Therefore they are neither good nor evil. -Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, Book Two