Rush Limbaugh’s death is a kiss from the Universe
The Man with the Golden Microphone killed my dad, and I’m glad he’s dead
The sound of Rush Limbaugh’s voice is the sound of my childhood.
It’s very strange, and confusing, the effect it has on me. On the one hand, it’s full of positive associations: hanging out with my dad in his pole barn, or his workshop. Dad snapping off the radio and stopping whatever he was working on to happily greet me, every time. In summer, fall, winter, and sugar season.
On the other hand, Rush’s voice is full of the negative associations of…its own content: that pure, fetid firehose of bigotry, strong man pseudo-intellectualism, and thinly veiled terror. I can still close my eyes and hear the cadence of his hatred. The daily celebration of human suffering, the dehumanization of the marginalized, the slander of women and good men, and the slathering demonization of homosexuality which contributed the culture in which my first two boyfriends were closeted homosexuals who used me as a beard. And, of course: the incalculable intellectual and emotional damage it did to my family. Including and not limited to my father’s death.
Yes. I do, in part, blame Rush Limbaugh for my father’s death. Because dad did.
In the early ’00s, when I was entering college, my dad put his days of listening to Rush, G. Gordon Liddy, and other neoconservative talk show “hosts” behind him. He did so for two related reasons.
The first was that he had had a spiritual awakening. A real one — not the politically profitable kind which the Republican-funded Evangelical movement Promise Keepers tried to sell him in ‘95 — but an actual connection with forces higher than himself. It happened on a motorcycle roadtrip, apro pos of no religious agenda. A lifelong agnostic, dad suddenly set to re-examining his life through the lens of a higher purpose. And some things dismayed him. Specifically: the time and energy he had spent throughout the ’80s and ’90s being angry at the government and politicians, and fearful about the future state of society. He quit talk radio overnight. His subscriptions dried up, and he stopped reading World Net Daily and Drudge Report.
Because these things literally did not vibe with the sense of purpose and hope he’d been given. By God.
The very same fellow from whom Rush Limbaugh claimed to have lent his talents.
Both of these things cannot be true. I know which one is false.
The second reason dad dropped Rush like the bad habit he was is dad realized, thanks to the shift in perspective his awakening had prompted, that he and his compatriots had become what you would call “bad actors” to the conservative movement at large.
Let me say that last sentence another way, because I think this point is really critical. Dad quit Rush because he saw him as an existential threat to the foundational principles of conservatism. In other words: he felt Rush was destroying conservative ideology.
That’s important, because Rush is being venerated by unnaturally animated sock puppet Sean Hannity and the other reanimated corpses at Fox News as a founding father to modern conservative ideology.
New moral imperative aside, dad saw Rush’s show turn from simple unchecked egomania and aggression to drinking and re-selling the kool-aid of the new Evangelical Republican complex, also known as Neoconservatism.
Rather than hawking after actually constitutional and conservative values, like limited federal government, fiscal responsibility, and individual liberty, Rush purchased wholesale into Reagan-era culture wars, fundamentalist religious ideology, and the cult of the wealthy elite.
Rush betrayed the core principles of conservatism. Homosexuality and abortion were two of his career’s hottest lightening rods — but what do either of these have to do with limited federal government, fiscal responsibility, or individual liberty? Quite the contrary: Rush’s anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion stances called for individual liberty to be dissolved.
Dad finally saw Rush and his neoconservative hatemongerers for the shills they were, and lost interest in the intricate web of intrigue and fear they sold in what was becoming Fox News.
He died from melonoma in ’08. Not long before he did, he told me in no unclear terms that he knew his cancer had been a result of spending so many years in a state of fear and anger over politics. That all that time listening to the radio had literally killed his brain. When he died, he left many projects undone, many experiences unknown, many biases not yet undone, and his grandchildren unseen.
Much as I love him, I would not wish the same lack of resolution upon myself.
There’s no use trying to quantify what it is about Rush’s career and life which is so grevious. Many have tried, with clips, excerpts, and quotes, each more crass and dehumanizing than the next.
But to me, no mountain of excerpts can quite capture the magnitude of the negativity that was his daily presence in a household. The daily bombardment of his barking, accusing voice, stabbing slander into the brain nonstop for hours, and hours. The power of his influence upon the people around me.
It was so confusing to me, as a child: the juxtaposition between my father’s gentility towards life and his affinity for Rush’s unmasked venom. Dad cried at sad movies, and went out of his way to protect and save small wildlife. He was devoted and respectful to my mother. He never had a single objectifying female image in sight (or out of sight, to my knowledge) my entire childhood. He was a generally jolly and outgoing person. He valued people who could disagree with one another respectfully. He loved spending time in nature.
It made no sense to me, from my perspective as a child, that my father would listen to Rush’s voice celebrate the names of gay people who had died of AIDs the previous day.
Turns out, that’s because it actually didn’t make sense. It literally wasn’t who my dad was meant to be.
“He sure is right about a lot of things,” is the classic defense offered by most of his fans, when confronted with his blatant amorality — my father included. Which is something I get. It’s the appeal of being on the inside circle; of being one of the chosen few who’s put all the pieces together. The one who’s wise. The one with the REAL knowledge. I get this very well. I, like my father, have the unfortunate combination of being too intelligent for my own station in life and too sensitive to being fucked over by the system. So I really, super get it.
I have a deep amount of hatred and loathing for many of the leaders and elites who manage these broken power structures which so poorly govern the lives of billions. And I see patterns much more quickly than the others around me.
But I also…don’t get it. Because I…just loathe the naked bigotry of Rush’s legacy. The sheer terror of anything and anyone perceived as “other”. It’s all so very unproductive, not to mention lacking in humanity. The negativity and stasis of it all is so very uninvigorating, and uninventive.
I’m still trying to make sense of it. I feel like I have to, because I am my father’s daughter, and I know I’m susceptible to the same traps. The same patterns. I don’t want to waste my life being angry about the present and fearful of the future. And I won’t.
Knowing that Rush Limbaugh has died of the same disease which he helped to manifest in my father, and that his voice will never again be heard on live broadcasts — this knowledge alleviates a good amount of my anger and fear.
Anger at having to hear the voice that killed my father continue to poison parents and families. Fear over the poison it’s spreading in my own home, and the homes of millions of families.
Like his voice. Beautifully and peacefully silent, at last.
Never to be heard again.