Jerry Falwell hated my dad.
It generally is considered in poor taste to speak ill of the dead. But when the departed was Jerry Falwell, who spoke ill of the dead every single time he opened his mouth concerning gays, then his death allows us the last word.
My father, a gay man, died of AIDS in 1991. Jerry Falwell used his bully pulpit to denounce gays, exhibiting a form of rampant homophobia, intolerance and hatred, all delivered in a fire and brimstone rant of nonsensical hate speech that would get a drunk thrown out of a bar, but instead made Falwell millions. It is America’s shame that his vile utterings were allowed to represent us to the world.
If my father, and millions of other gays were “tolerated”, then it was barely so. Hatemongers such as Falwell made their careers by inciting discrimination, violence, and ridicule against gays, although not exclusively. He hated Jews, liberals, and the supreme court too. Fred Phelps, the “God Hates Fags” mental midget, wouldn’t exist (at least, not on our airwaves) without the strides Falwell made in successfully interjecting bigotry into our public discourse.
Each man’s morality should be his own. Falwell’s ceaseless campaign of hatred fostered an environment that allowed Ronald Reagan to downplay the AIDS threat, but gain points with the “Moral Majority” (which, as it has been pointed out a million times, was neither), exhibiting that particularly American strain of Christian intolerance that forced gays back into shadows, mental patients into the street, and by gutting the Fairness Doctrine, allowed windbags such as Falwell into lucrative television networks and sound bites on Fox- who can forget the classic “9-11 was caused by gays and liberals” vomitus that added shame and embarrassment to a nation attempting to grieve its loss?
Jerry Falwell hated my dad. Gus Mann’s life was worth nothing to the obese peddler of hate. My father had to hide one of the most important and defining aspects of himself from both society and his family, in part because some jackass made gay-bashing into an accepted form of discourse. The Falwells of the world made sure that people like my father never rose a day without hating themselves. My father died alone in a Veterans hospital (yeah, he served, unlike Falwell), and his death served no good ends, save that it ended his suffering.
Now Jerry Falwell is dead. Good. While I feel for the family he leaves behind, I would feel the same for anyone who has sustained such a loss. His children can’t help that they were fathered by a horrible, horrible man. Jerry Falwell was a stain on America, who spread hate instead of love, condemnation in place of compassion, and gave voice to the thousands of little Hitlers, safe in their pews on Sunday morning or in the Oval Office who hold the same twisted, hateful views as he. The sooner our nation is rid of the infectious influence of bigots such as Jerry Falwell, the better. In some small way, he robbed our nation of a part of its soul.
Jerry Falwell never met my father, but he hated him, and told others to hate him too. A nation that gives credence and audience to the Falwells in its midst is a nation unevolved, a nation not yet reaching its potential. But evolution cannot happen without death. In this, Falwells death is a blessing. Others will continue his vile oratory, but one less in number. This is good.
On behalf of my father, roast in hell Jerry Falwell. Roast in hell.