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Editorial | Death doesn’t excuse actions

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Editorial | Death doesn’t excuse actions

Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

Last week, former President George H.W. Bush died at 94. Articles across the internet began popping up with headlines like “President George H.W. Bush’s Choice Of Bold, Whimsical Socks Made Him A Style Icon,” “George H.W. Bush was a symbol of decency, even if you didn’t like his politics” and “George Bush, Comeback Kid,” drawing the portrait of man who was a beacon of power to be admired, regardless of political affiliation.

It’s important to remember people after their passing, especially when they have affected so many people’s lives. But it’s also important to remove the rose-tinted glasses and paint an accurate portrayal of them.

Bush is remembered for many things: his civility and pragmatism, his involvement with the ending of the Cold War and his role in the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He should also be remembered for vetoing the Civil Rights Act of 1990, which would have restored protections against employment discrimination for women and minorities or for being accused of groping six different women, one as young as 16. He also placed the onus of contracting HIV onto gay men who were dying from it, proposing the solution was to “change [their] behavior!”

Other notable figures who have passed away this year have received more holistic evaluations, with their online memorials looking at their successes but not shying away from their controversies.

On a lesser note, Stan Lee, Marvel figurehead and creator of some of the most famous fictional characters in existence, had his legacy marred by the complicated relationships with his collaborators and employees. Most notably, Lee faced accusations of stealing a lot of creative talent of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, even on some of Marvel’s most widely-known superheroes like Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk.  

Jahseh Onfroy, more widely known by his stage name XXXTentacion, also faced accusations over violent abuse of his ex-girlfriend. Onfroy became widely known not just for his polarizing music but also for a troubled history of violence, particularly against women. More accusations also surfaced throughout his career, including beatings of fans and strangers, home invasions and robberies. In June at the age of 20, Onfroy was fatally shot in a robbery at a car dealership.

This isn’t to overshadow their accomplishments with their controversies, but simply turning a blind eye isn’t the answer either.

It’s important to respect their passing and acknowledge these individuals as humans, first and foremost. But we must also look at their lives objectively. Each of these late public figures meant different things to different people, but ascribing importance to someone doesn’t mean their actions can be excused.

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