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Dancing On Margaret Thatcher’s Grave

I’m a big fan of this site from the UK. Anyone who has seen the news in the last couple of days will know that one of Britain’s most in/famous Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher, passed away at the start of this week. Thatcher’s death has been hugely polarising here, in some cases to uncomfortable levels.

Now, before I start, I’d just like to say that I wasn’t actually alive when Thatcher was in government – I was born a year after she left the position of Prime Minister. For the most part I was coolly neutral to the woman – as a feminist I didn’t appreciate her calling the movement “poison” but that was probably my biggest issue.

Here is my question, both in this case and for future, more personal use: what is the best way to strike a balance between not speaking ill of the dead and acknowledging that a person has made mistakes and may have not always been a particularly pleasant person?

In regards to Thatcher at least, bean dipping is nearly impossible! At the moment, everyone wants to discuss the matter. 0410-13

I wrote about the modern phenomenon of people “dancing on the deadman’s grave” six years ago in this post when Jerry Falwell’s death sparked a plethora of uncivilized behavior.    My thoughts then and now are unchanged in that I believe celebrating death with joy and vitriol is undignified and uncivilized.

The reaction to British former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death appears to be quite visceral and vile and is causing a deep division in the country.

Thousands of protestors congregated in Trafalgar Square last week to celebrate her death.   Janie Jones, a mother of four, has been the leader behind a recent promotion of the song “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead”, the song from the Wizard of Oz, to a meteoric rise up the music chart to #2.   Many people plan to mark the funeral at parties around the UK on Wednesday morning during the funeral.

Other protesters plan to demonstrate along the route of Lady Thatcher’s funeral procession by turning their backs to the casket.  Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said, “Some will question the taste of funeral protests, whilst others will see them as inevitable at such a public political event. Either way, the authorities have no role in policing manners, and it would be tasteless indeed if the memorial of any democratic leader prompted arrests of peaceful protesters and the strangling of dissent.”

I found Ms. Chakrabarti’s use of the word “tasteless” to describe a scene where police deprive protesters of the right to dissent peacefully during a funeral procession rather unusual and misplaced in priority and usage.   She appears to completely miss the fundamental precept that it would be tasteless to exploit a recent death to score political points.   Here in the US we have peaceful protestors at celebrity and political funerals.   They are called the Westboro Baptist Church.

WBC has a legally protected right to peaceful dissent and protest along funeral processions but that does not negate the reality that they are vile people engaged in puerile, tasteless and crass exploitation of death to get across a political agenda.    They were in attendance at Ronald Reagan’s funeral procession toting signs that stated that Reagan was now rotting in hell.

An overwhelming majority of Americans are repulsed by WBC’s behavior at funerals of the media and political elite as well as common soldiers who died in the line of duty.   The question I pose is, “Is it what is being communicated by WBC that is repulsive or is it the complete package of disrespecting the dead and exacerbating the grief of loved ones that is wrong for you?   If it is solely the former, then there is nothing to limit anyone of any political stripe to exercise their right to protest at any funeral of any person and that is a bad slippery slope to get on as it degrades the culture overall.  If it is the latter, we can apply a basic, principled shame and social shunning to behavior that disrespects the dead regardless of political party or social activism.  If one would dance on the grave of one’s political opponent yet be deeply offended if the same were done to one’s own deceased political leader, you don’t “get it” and all you are doing is engaging in political one-up-manship and political machinations exploiting death.   Addendum 05/13/2013:   I did not publish two comments from regular commenters of this blog who both declared an intention to dance on Fred Phelps’ grave once he is dead and protest at his funeral with signs stating he was now in hell thus becoming that which they claimed to despise.   If the action is not universally reprehensible then what we are left with is merely a disagreement on politics.

What makes the dancing on Thatcher’s grave site distinctly more tasteless and disrespectful is that Thatcher left political office 21 years ago, ceased public speaking 11 years ago and has suffered from dementia for at least the last 8 years.  There is a time and a place to exercise political dissent, most notably when the person is alive in order to have the opportunity to rebut the charges.   Margaret Thatcher has not been in a position to influence current social and political policies in over a decade and one would think those in opposition to her political legacy would have had the chance to reverse “Thatcherism” in the last 20 years had they the political machinery and votes to do it.   Socialist Owen Jones correctly identified the true motivation of his political compatriots, “Celebrating the prospect of her death has become an admittedly macabre substitute for the failure to defeat Thatcherism. The Iron Lady will die knowing her legacy is stronger than ever.”

I have recently read  in UK online papers that Thatcher has been compared to Hitler, Stalin and Bin Laden, a hyperbole of comparison which I think diminishes the atrocities committed by the three men instead of elevating Thatcher to the realms of the most evil.  But even if she were of their caliber, I still would not condone death celebrations.   After Osama Bin Laden’s death in 2011, I wrote how I chose to react to the news.   He is our generation’s Hitler, an evil man who rejoiced at the thought, plans and actions of killing others and one could be justified in celebrating his death.

The decision to mete out earthly retribution should be entered into with soberness, solemnity and calm befitting a choice to see justice served.  Otherwise the taking of life becomes trivialized and we are no more civilized than the beasts who wantonly kill the innocent they view as worthlessly expendable.  Nor do we want to rejoice at death lest we show ourselves to be no better than the savages who hung the burnt bodies of US contractors from street lights and danced in joy.  No, I think we are much better than that.

I won’t weep for him but I will soberly reflect in thankfulness that he can no longer lead others into evil and be grateful for the peace and safety and freedoms we enjoy.

“Respect for the dead” does not mean one is compelled to engage in active mourning, attend a funeral or express insincere sorrow.   But I do believe it means we should act with dignity to honor the dead who can no longer defend themselves from critical scrutiny and respect the grief of the living who do mourn their passing.

P.S.  This is an interesting editorial by someone who was not a fan of Margaret Thatcher, who lived during her political career yet counsels restraint n the occasion of her death.   A good, balanced read, imo.

Addendum 05/13/2013:   I received a large number of negative comments about Margaret Thatcher which I did not approve for publication to this blog post.   I felt then and still do now that the commenters did not get the point of allowing others to grieve without political distractions and that political disagreements are best dealt with when the person is alive so as to engage in that debate.   I also felt by approving them I would be allowing a significant number of people to express an opinion that may not be reflective of the political reality.  So, I finally choose to approve those messages but add the following obituary as balance.  From National Review (May 6, 2013):

Margaret Thatcher was the greatest peacetime British prime minister of the 20th century, and perhaps of all time; and her achievements in foreign policy were second only to those of Winston Churchill.

In domestic policy, she reversed the decline of the previous 30 years and revived both the British economy and the British spirit.  She brought inflation under control and established sound money; brought the unions under law, so dispelling the idea that Britain had become “ungovernable”; defeated the miners’ strike, so entrenching her reforms; revived the enterprise culture that Britain had pioneered a century earlier but lost; and started what became a worldwide revolution of privatization.  Ten years after the strike-ridden “winter of discontent”,Britain’s economy had become the fourth-largest in the world.

In foreign policy, she was instrumental to the free world’s victory in the Cold War – a victory achieved “without firing a shot,” as she put it.  She was steadfast and vocal in her support of the NATO policy of installing cruise and Pershing missiles in Western Europe.  The success of that policy, against the vehement objections of both the “peace movement” and most parties of the European Left, marked the point at which the U.S.S.R. lost the Cold War.  She improved on that success by identifying Mikhail Gorbachev as “a man we could do business with” and warmly recommending him to Ronald Reagan as such. Her early endorsement of the Soviet leader was one reason the Cold War ended peacefully, almost on friendly terms.

Mrs. Thatcher-we prefer to call her by the name she was known by in the days of her glory-made enemies who remain bitter to this day, as some comments on her death from the British Left miserably illustrate.  Her shade must be content with the praise that is rising from the formerly Communist nations in which she remains a heroic and loved figure–and from the United States, which was second only to Britain in her affection.

To sum up such a remarkable life is not easy.  We cannot improve upon the attempt by Lord Saatchi, head of the think tank she founded and the shaper of her victorious election message in 1979:  “Everyone wants to be immortal.  Few are.  Mrs. Thatcher is. Why?  Because her values are timeless, eternal.  Tap anyone on the shoulder anywhere in the world, and ask what Mrs. Thatcher ‘believed in’ and they will tell you.  They can give a clear answer to what she ‘stood for’.  She developed all the winning arguments of our time–free markets, low tax, a small state, independence, individuality, self-determination.”

{ 66 comments… add one }
  • Weirdo April 15, 2013, 9:10 am

    I don’t know too much about Ms Thatcher except that she could be considered the British equivalent of Pierre Trudeau. You either love her or hate her.

    However I know quite a bit about Hitler, Saddam and Bin Laden. People who compare her to them have my sympathy. Obviously their schooling and upbringing were not enough to differentiate between unpopular politicians and genocide focused dictators.

  • Lo April 15, 2013, 9:10 am

    I wholly agree with Admin commentary here.

    As a US citizen I was definitely looked at strangely for my own refusal to take pleasure in the death of Osama Bin Laden– unquestionably a man who got what was coming to him, nevermind the dozens of American politicans whose beliefs I took serious issue with in life, who may have died of natural causes only to have their opponents rejoice.

    Much bigger than an etiquette issue is the fact that as human beings if we decide that human life is sacred, then all human life is sacred and whether or not we support the taking of such, we are morally obligated to treat death with the gravity it deserves. We don’t have to mourn people we loathed in life, but we ought to be better than the sort who would take pleasure in their death.

    I’m not a fan of Thatcher but this is a human being we’re talking about– someone who was born, was loved and cherished, who belonged to a family unit, who leaves behind family who will mourn her. There’s a huge difference between disagreeing with– even hating an individual– and giving public voice to satisfaction over that individual’s demise.

  • Roslyn April 15, 2013, 9:11 am

    A funeral is a ceremony of the living, for the living to pay respect for the dead. I think the Kindergarten lesson of “If you don’t have anything nice to say…..say nothing.” comes into play.

    These public people have left a legacy of passion, good and bad. Allow those who truly want to pay respect have their respectful funeral ceremonies.

    A protest to voice the negative aspects of a person’s life can come later, but let the living have their funeral.

  • David April 15, 2013, 9:24 am

    I was not a fan of Margaret Thatchers while she was in power, but the time to celebrate was when she left office.

    Celebrating the death of an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s syndrome is poor form.

  • JWH April 15, 2013, 9:26 am

    On the other hand, would it be wrong to discuss and/or reflect on her poltical legacy, for good or for ill, without resorting to insults?

    “I think Margaret Thatcher was just like Osama bin Laden” is clearly over the line. But if you’re discussing her passing with friends, is it wrong to say something along the lines of “She was a remarkable woman, but I think her policies on XYZ were not the best for the United Kingdom” or something similar? Of course you wouldn’t say something like this to the Thatcher family (“I’m sorry for your loss is more ppropriate”), but discussion of a public figure seems a little different to me.

    It seems to me that when you’re discussing the deaths major artists or major political figures, it might be entirely appropriate to discuss their body of work and the legacy they live behind for good or for ill.

    • admin April 15, 2013, 11:26 am

      Civilized politics involves discussing the rational, logical merits of a political position without resorting to personal attacks. I’m not sure someone’s death is the most advantageous time to have that kind of discussion due to the possibility that there might be people who do mourn her death and talking about 20+ year old political issues is not going to be well received.

  • Bint April 15, 2013, 9:27 am

    I have no respect for the ten million quid her funeral is costing us. It’s disgusting, it’s extremely bad taste, they didn’t do it for the last 4 PMs I remember dying, and it’s an appallingly provocative gesture I think we could all do without.

    There are reasons why some of the protests about Thatcher are still valid, but this isn’t really the place. However, expecting whatever damage she did to be righted and/or forgotten 20 years on does suggest a lack of understanding about the situation here.

    I fully expect protests at Tony Blair’s funeral too.

  • Library Diva April 15, 2013, 9:29 am

    I find the public celebration of anyone’s death disgusting and distasteful. Even Osama Bin Laden. Even Jerry Falwell. It’s just rotten.

    I don’t think there should be an absolute prohibition against speaking ill of the dead, though. Just draw the line before expressing glee at the person’s passing. I think the OP is free to express her opinion in private conversation, but I’d honestly turn away from the person if they started to seem a little too happy that Thatcher is gone. If OP truly doesn’t want to discuss Thatcher at all, her best way out is to be boring on the topic. Tell the questioner that you weren’t even alive when she was prime minister and that you’ve never had much of an opinion on her. It won’t give them anything to discuss and they’ll probably move on.

  • Shoegal April 15, 2013, 9:44 am

    I felt uncomfortable when I saw people rejoicing in the death of Osama Bin Laden – as was stated here I certainly did not mourn his death – but a celebration? I just thought it was wrong. Somebody died – and we are dancing in the streets?!?!?! I do believe we are better than that. Same thought in the case of Thatcher. An elderly lady died of Alzheimer’s and people are scrawling ugly messages on the walls of the city? I don’t have any opinions on Margaret Thatcher myself- but I can’t believe she had this coming to her especially when she isn’t alive to defend herself.

  • Politrix April 15, 2013, 9:50 am

    Wow, was I surprised to see this as today’s entry. Thatcher was a close colleague of Ronald Reagan — the U.S. President who, among other things, placed a wreath on a grave in a Nazi cemetery, supported a policy of “constructive engagement” with one of the most racist and oppressive governments in the world at the time, and propped up a brutal dictator Chile — her policies were cruel, backwards, and also supportive of brutal and corrupt regimes around the world, not to mention on the home front.
    All that being said, when I heard the news this weekend on how people were “celebrating” her death, all I could think of was, “What an ugly thing to do.” She’s dead, folks. Nothing wrong with pointing out her flaws, or countering the attempts to idealize her with a level-headed response… but to actually throw a party while her friends and loved ones are still in mourning is not only inhuman, it’s cowardly. The time to fight her was when she was alive, not when she’s barely cold in the grave.
    There’s a quote somewhere from Woody Allen (a quick Google search could produce it, I’m sure) about how as an American-born Jew, who never suffered the horrors of the Holocaust, he nevertheless felt a great deal more hatred for Hitler and his willing executioners than the victims themselves felt. He marveled how, as a boy raised in a warm home with loved ones and three square meals a day, could feel more hatred for something he never experienced personally than those who suffered directly.
    Maybe the Buddhist quote applies: “You are not punished FOR your hatred; you are punished BY your hatred.” Perhaps choosing love and life over hatred and death is the greatest triumph of all.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith April 15, 2013, 9:57 am

    We do live in an age when politically contentious instantiations of government drive frustration and deep division. I think what many might be referring to in the extreme reaction to Thatcher’s death is the sense that they weren’t “heard” in her life, in political terms. We have several waves of liberal policy practitioners coming online and one of the reasons we face such amplitude in the waves of animus expressed towards conservatives is simply that many conservative parties and politicians have had a “holier than thou” view of the realities of economics, morality, and political theory. We are now in the middle of a more liberal arc, and it’s easier to see (and to discuss) the evils of conservative practices because those policy implementations and their effects are somewhat more aged. I imagine that the same thing will happen in reverse in a number of years. Neither liberals nor conservatives will ever truly triumph because each end of the spectrum represents something of importance to constituents, whether the guarantee of personal freedoms and liberty or the commitment of government to act in the best interest of its people (expressed differently in each case, but fundamentally the same dynamic). However, we love to vilify those who don’t succeed in making the world right. Especially if their views were markedly different from our own… especially if they indulged in an appearance of superiority of position and correctness, which are at the core of debate as it’s practiced in politics now.

  • Wendy B April 15, 2013, 10:10 am

    I agree with just about everything said here.

    If you don’t like someone, fine. If you hate them, fine. But if you act that way about someone’s death years after they’ve stepped down from power…what does that say about you? To speak ill not only of the dead, but of the elderly with dementia, is crass, to say the least. Even if you didn’t like her (or someone else, say Reagan) SOMEONE in the world loved them, and this is a difficult time for them.

  • Lady L April 15, 2013, 10:21 am

    Very well said, Admin! Thank you for putting it so gracefully.

  • Goldie April 15, 2013, 10:23 am

    I am originally from Russia and I wanted to comment that I understand, and approve of, people that celebrated on the days Stalin and Hitler died. The reason being that, in both of those cases, innocent people were being killed on Stalin and Hitler’s orders until the day they died, and that, in each case, their death was the only way to make those killings stop. Margaret Thatcher on the other hand, has been retired for decades, so I do not understand, or agree with, the celebrations I’ve been seeing online for the past week. I agree that they are completely out of line. Pay your respects, or say nothing at all.

  • Mae April 15, 2013, 10:26 am

    I agree with Admin and most other comments. I was taught that you give the dead respect, even if you did not like them or their actions. If you didn’t like her or her actions/policies/whatever, fine; just say it and go on. But to celebrate the death of a woman who was not in the public eye for at least a decade,who had never personally done anything to the protestors, and who was suffering from dementia is cruel. How would they feel if someone did that to their loved ones?

    To anyone who celebrates Ms. Thatcher’s death by turning their backs to the funeral procession, having parties and all of those who wrote vulgar things about her, SHAME on you. As tasteless as your actions are, I hope you never have to experience something so vile when your loved ones pass on.

  • cheyne April 15, 2013, 10:26 am

    Ms. Thatcher was a product of her time. She was a politician of her time. Ms. Thatcher was in no way comparable to Hitler, Saddam Hussien or Osama Bin Laden. Talk about hyperbole!

    If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing. Dancing on the grave of the dead is tasteless and makes one look a bit insane.

  • WildIrishRose April 15, 2013, 10:29 am

    You are spot on. Rejoicing over the death of a human being is ugly.

  • Lerah99 April 15, 2013, 10:38 am

    I strongly disagree with Margaret Thatcher’s political philosophy. I also strongly disagree with Ronald Regan’s political philosophy.

    But I see no reason to hop up and down and rejoice in the fact neither of them are living.

    It is one thing to take the stance that their policies hurt low class, working class, and middle class people. It is another thing entirely to demonize the politicians behind those policies.

    In political discussions it seems we have lost the fact we are supposed to be arguing the policies and NOT the people behind the policies.

  • Another Sarah April 15, 2013, 10:39 am

    Whilst I totally agree with admin’s above post about the disgusting way people are celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s death, I’d like to point out that the protests are a different issue.

    The estimated cost of Thatcher’s state funeral is £8 – 10 million. A state funeral is not something that is done for every Prime minister, in fact only 12 (non-royal) people have been honoured in this way (a couple more refused it but 3 or 4 only).
    The majority of protests planned for the funeral are about the cost of such an event during one of the most austere times in England’s financial history, and the legitimacy of Thatcher’s right to one considering her legacy, which was divisive at best.
    Additionally, she actually refused a state funeral in her will. The funeral will be a “ceremonial” funeral, which is a state funeral in all but name.
    I think there is a case for protesting the expenditure under the circumstances, but where the issue becomes muddy is in the fact that the money is going on a funeral and instantly becomes personal to her family.
    However they could have chosen to have a public funeral that wasn’t state funded.

    • admin April 15, 2013, 11:10 am

      I cannot agree with that the cost of the funeral is driving the vast bulk of the protests surrounding her death. I’ve read a considerable number of UK based news reports and opinion sites and cost of the funeral is a secondary, even tertiary consideration. No, the news of her death evoked a primal and immediate reaction before it was known what the funeral plans were and how much was being spent. One thing to consider, Thatcher’s foundation is paying for part of the funeral bill according to several UK news outlets this morning.

  • Ashley April 15, 2013, 10:40 am

    In OP’s case, I think that it would be completely acceptable to say that you weren’t even alive when she was in office, and therefor you don’t feel like you are able to have any strong opinion one way or another on her.

    As for the rest of it, funerals are the one thing I believe people should just leave alone and let mourners mourn. I hate when I turn on the news and hear about the WBC picketing this, or various people celebrating the death of so-and-so. Whoever it was, there was SOMEONE out there who loved them and they should be allowed to mourn in peace

  • Enna April 15, 2013, 10:46 am

    I was going to say that Margaret Thatcher wasn’t as bad as those people she was compared to by some idiot. She didn’t murder 6 million Jews, or 20 million people or encourage others to blow themselves up. I agree with David’s comment. I mean there are a lot worse leaders to have like Robert Mugabe and the leader in North Korea whose name escapes me now.

  • Kay L April 15, 2013, 10:48 am

    That people celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden makes perfect sense to me,  He was a terrorist who took many lives and deserved to die.  The same wiht Hitler, Stalin, et al.  It’s really offensive for anyone to mention them in the same article with Thatcher, but it seems that that is exactly what these political agitators want.

    The issue is not that one should always show restraint at the death of another.  Really, its sickening to hear someone say that Thatcher deserves respect because she was human, that possibly being the only thing she or any of us have in common with Hitler, Stalin, et al.  Yes, they were also “humans.”

    It’s not a matter of free speech or uncouthness.  Leading a campaign to have a particular song played on the radio to mock a dead leader is nothing but political agitation. Destroying the reputation of leaders of the opposition serves a political purpose in and of itself.

    This is bullying behavior.  The purpose is not to express oneself but to prevent those who admired her from being able to properly mourn her and remember her very laudable accomplishments.

    And let me say that I find it very strange that anyone would defend these people’s actions in Great Britain wtih the idea of “free speech” in mind.  There is no such thing in Great Britain.  It’s a country where you can be imprisoned for speaking your mind on a good range of topics, particularly religion.

  • Kirst April 15, 2013, 10:56 am

    I think it’s very easy to criticise people over their reaction to her death when you don’t live in this country and have very little real idea of the misery her politics inflicted.

    As for the funeral, it’s a public event. It’s not a private family funeral. If it was a private family funeral, it would be wrong to protest at it. But the government are spending £10 million of taxpayers’ money putting on a ceremonial funeral with military honours. That makes it a public event, and we have the right, some would say the duty, to protest at public events. If I could get to London on Wednesday I would be there and I would protest. I would like to dress as a miner and throw cartons of milk at the cortege, but given that it IS a funeral, I would content myself with turning my back on the cortege and hissing.

    If you want a private, dignified family funeral where mourners can mourn in peace, then have one. Don’t have a state event.

  • Jenn50 April 15, 2013, 11:32 am

    Thank you, Goldie, for putting into words what I’ve been struggling to articulate. When someone’s death puts a stop to the multitudes of murders they were currently committing, I understand celebrating. When someone’s death occurs decades after they made political decisions you disagreed with, after they have been out of power for years, and have spent many of those years enfeebled, calling them nasty names and dancing in the street is disgusting, and needlessly hurtful to their loved ones.

    Recently, a retired provincial politician in our area died, after a lingering illness. I abhorred his policies and his personality, and feel he was single-handedly responsible for crippling our health care and education system. It drives me absolutely mad to hear him sanctified in the media since his death. BUT, I realize that he was just a man, trying to do what he thought was right. He didn’t murder anyone, he wasn’t an evil guy. His ideologies were profoundly different from mine. He suffered tremendously in his final couple of years, and although I didn’t care for the man personally, I feel a great deal of sympathy for him and his family. And in spite of how I felt about him, I hold my counsel, and let those who are saddened by his passing grieve without my bitter two cents.

  • Kirst April 15, 2013, 11:46 am

    But the point is, we the taxpayers ARE paying for it. It’s a ceremonial funeral and therefore it’s a state event. It could have been kept as entirely a private funeral, paid for privately, but it was made into a public event and the public will have their say.

    • admin April 15, 2013, 12:14 pm

      Please get your facts straight. The Telegraph reported as of 12:21 pm today that half of the funeral costs are being paid for by the Thatcher family. Further, it is “one step short of a full state funeral” and is a military funeral to honor her considerable role in the Falkland Islands War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

  • Jay April 15, 2013, 11:46 am

    “vile people engaged in puerile, tasteless and crass exploitation of death to get across a political agenda”

    This is not true.

    The WBC are engaged in that exploitation for PROFIT. They’re all lawyers, and they sue people/companies/towns that give them any excuse to do so as a result of their protests.

  • Nancy April 15, 2013, 12:09 pm

    I think that this incident shows us what we should have already known. We don’t all love and revere the dead that we attend funerals for, or we at least have very complicated relationships. I have a cousin who was actually relieved when her dad died. He was emotionally abusive towards her and her mother, amongst other things. I think that sometimes, remembering the dead means REMEMBERING the dead, not reinventing the dead. My own father was abusive, and it was well known at his funeral that I had walked out when I decided I had enough. We did not reconcile before he died, because he could not reconcile that hitting his wife and verbally berating her was not okay, and I wasn’t going to pretend it was okay, and I wasn’t going to protect his vile secret. I sat through a super awkward funeral where some mourners did not know how to approach me, though my closest relatives had the wherewithal to tell me that they too, remembered. I sat through a service where the minister read his address, I kid you not, three times, and a bunch of people showed up not really so much for my dad, but for my mom.

    However, in this circumstance, no matter how complicated my grieving may have been, I did not run around telling people that they were stupid for mourning him and how he was a terrible person and I hoped he rotted in hell. Partly because I didn’t hope any of those things or think any of those things. The thing about death is that you have to be respectful not only of your own grieving process but also that of those around you. The comparison to Westboro is spot-on.

  • camlan April 15, 2013, 1:14 pm

    I was alive during Thatcher’s time in office. It was in the pre-internet days, and I don’t think the US media gave us a clear picture of just how disliked she was in the UK.

    So, for me, the demonstrations of the depths of the hatred for her are startling. I can understand that people didn’t like her and/or didn’t like her policies, but the sheer public display of rejoicing troubles me.

    In the same way, public rejoicing at the deaths of Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein also made me very uncomfortable.

    I think you can say “I feel the world is a better place without this person it it,” without rioting and making a public spectacle and showing overt signs of glee.

    While Margaret Thatcher angered many people, she was a human being who had a family who loved her. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be one of her grandchildren and be witnessing the public display that has occurred over her death.

    I also have noticed that many of the people “celebrating” are too young to have been born while she was in office, or too young to have been very aware of the ramifications of her actions. Which makes me wonder if they are celebrating her death, or seizing any opportunity for a public spectacle.

  • Brenda April 15, 2013, 1:19 pm

    There is a great deal of vitriol towards Lady Margaret, and I believe there is some basis for it. I’m American, but I have British friends, and not a single one of them is mourning her. However, we have spoken about it privately, perhaps with a bit of rejoicing, but I’m not going to apologize for private, agreeable converse.

    I do think there are a few things that need to be considered:

    1. Lady Margaret has been out of the limelight for quite a while. If I even thought of her, I just assumed she was dead, so hearing that she had just passed away I’m sure dredged up memories, both good and bad, for many people besides myself. Many people celebrated when she left office, and I’m sure many of those same people are celebrating now. It may be inappropriate, but there is always a response when someone we know dies, no matter how distant or estranged.

    2. I do not know what protests are planned around her funeral, but there are differences between the behavior of the WBC and any protestors at Lady Margaret’s funeral. The WBC’s entire existence is based around their protesting; their targets are many and often seem to be based on what is available to protest. It may be funerals, actors, plays, movies, politicians, whoever or whatever is available that week. The WBC appears wherever they believe they will be seen, heard and photographed. The protests towards Lady Margaret are direct to her and directly relate to her decisions and choices, which have affected the UK and the world for decades. I agree that protesting at her actual funeral is completely unacceptable, but I cannot condemn those who hold protests away from the procession and funeral.

  • --Lia April 15, 2013, 1:22 pm

    I always thought the etiquette rule on these things was quite clear.
    It is fair game to talk about political ideas.
    It is never okay to strike personal attacks on people, dead or alive.

    So it’s fine to say “I’ve always been a supporter of the feminist movement. I disagree with Thatcher’s statements in that regard. For that matter, I don’t think we ever agreed on much of anything.” It is not okay to call her a witch or a bitch or anything else, and that’s true when she was running for office.

    Similarly, you might say “the wholesale slaughter of millions of innocent people in the Holocaust was horrible.” It is not okay to compare anyone with Hitler, even when that person is making anti-Semitic remarks.

    I would not say that WBC was engaging in crass exploitation to promote a political agenda. I say that because I cannot figure out what that political agenda might be. They don’t seem to be in favor of anything except crass exploitation. Note that with that statement, I have limited my comments to ideas and have not said anything about individual people.

    I believe part of the problem is a confusion between public and private. I’ll admit that when I heard of bin Laden’s death, I quietly, in the privacy of my room, said out loud “good!” So I understand the emotion of wanting to celebrate, and I certainly understand wanting to give a hero’s welcome to the people who were able to accomplish the necessary act, but I draw the line at saying horrible even about bin Laden– that’s dead or alive. Condemn the action, not the perpetrator.

  • JesBelle April 15, 2013, 1:30 pm

    People like to say that a funeral is an opportunity to celebrate the life of the deceased. So how does one register dislike or even abhorrence of a dead person and their actions during life? If the deceased was just a private citizen, I suppose you could do it privately. You could choose to not attend their funeral for instance. You could excuse yourself from the presence of someone who was eulogizing them. If asked, you could simply say, “I didn’t really care for X. ”

    But how do you do that with a public figure? Margaret Thatcher chose a public life. Britain is footing half of the bill for her funeral, meaning that her funeral is also a public event. The people who will be asked to speak of her will be friends and supporters. Without protests, how would an outsider watching this know that a polarizing figure had passed away? I guess what I’m saying is that it sticks in one’s craw to watch someone that you sincerely believe to have been a source of suffering for many praised and celebrated with no voice of dissent.

    I’m not saying that actual celebrating of her death isn’t disgusting. It clearly is, but to say that *any* peaceful demonstration of negative feeling is equally wrong seems as hyperbolic as comparing her to Osama Bin Laden. I also don’t like the comparison of people who wish to turn their backs on a funeral procession to the Westboro Baptist Church. The WBC shows up at the funerals of private citizens to actively celebrate their deaths and spread their message of hatred. At a time when the friends and family of the dead are turning to God for comfort, they are chanting that God hates them.

  • Lo April 15, 2013, 1:54 pm

    I just want to clarify what I said earlier because I realize I was making a rather broad moral statement, and regardless of my own beliefs about whether any human being’s death is justified, that’s not really the issue here. I was in no way comparing Margaret Thatcher to an evil dictator in saying that we should celebrate neither death.

    The issue at large is public celebration of death, so to speak to that specifically… Obviously whether the individual is a polarizing politician, a dictator, an abusive family member, or any other person that we don’t as individuals feel a need to mourn, our personal internal reaction is no one else’s business. But there’s a huge gulf between feeling relief, acceptance, and even a sense of satisfaction at the death of someone we hate; and publically rejoicing.

    My own religious beliefs prohibit hatred. But I have no wish to enforce that on anyone else. Instead I suggest that when we _publically_ voice our pleasure at the death of any individual– whether through demonstration, vocal enthusiam, etc– regardless of what they have done in life, we are complicit in an act of vengeance. And objectively, vengeance has no place in civil society. We may have a right to do it, but shouldn’t we feel obligated to waive that right for the sake of our own humanity?

  • Hel April 15, 2013, 2:01 pm

    I do not in any way agree with people who celebrate the death of an old woman who was no longer in power. Dancing on graves is never acceptable when it isn’t an instant end to evil policies(when Hitler died etc). However, alot of the hatred for her isn’t just for “policies”, it’s because of the hundreds of murders her policies were responsible for. Just felt that needed to be mentioned.

  • Margo April 15, 2013, 2:29 pm

    @Admin, Kirst is correct.We (the British Tax payers) are paying around £10M towards the cost of the funeral. It is far above and beyond what was provided for other former PMs. (The Telegraph, incidentally, is not an unbiased source on this subject) The family is paying part of the costs, the tax payer is picking up a huge bill.

    I know a huge number of people who strongly oppose and opposed Thatcher’s politics, who rejoiced when she left office, and who would be perfectly willing to say nothing at her death. But to be forced to pay for the overblown, inappropriate funeral is massively offensive. I think very few people, even those who opposed Thatcher, would have objected, or even considered protesting the funeral had it been a private event, or a funeral on a par with those of other former Prime Ministers. It isn’t. It’s being made into a state funeral in all but name, presented as though this was an ocassion for NAtional mourning. It isn’t.

    The suggestion that people turning then backs on a procession is the same as holding up WBC-style signs is also highly offensive. It’s like saying there’s no difference between turning away and refusing to speak to someone, and shouting abuse at them.

    I’ve seen a lot of commentary from people in the US, here and elsewhere. Frankly, the comments made, including many here, simply demonstrate that you really have no idea at all how deeply, personally, offensive and hurtful it is to a large section of the British population to see someone who caused immense, ongoing grief and pain to so many people celebrated in this way.

    Oh, and please don’t assume that the Telegraph is even remotely objective or evenhanded when it comes to the Tory party. Or that it even comes close to speaking for the nation.

    You can’t have it both ways. A funeral is a private opportunity for people to express their grief and loss. A public event paid for by the public is different, and when it is designed to glorify someone who is a and was a deeply divisive political figure it is inevitably going to attract a public, and political, response.

    I am personally disgusted at the people making political capital out of Thatcher’s death. Those people are not the ones protesting.They are the ones pretending that this is about private grief.

  • Cat April 15, 2013, 2:32 pm

    I have no quarrel with the dead. The time to protest someone’s life’s work is while they are still living and doing whatever you take exception to their doing.
    I do object to those who think they are Christians and then set themselves up as judge and jury for other people. If God bothered to write a commandment against stealing and then promised Paradise to a thief on a cross, no-one knows who is Hell-bound if, indeed, anyone is.
    The Church can give you a long list of people it believes are in Heaven, but it has never said any human being is actually in Hell. We only believe it is possible to go there; you cannot issue anyone a ticket just because they don’t live as you wish.
    I wish WBC would stop judging others and simply say they don’t approve of American military actions, being gay, and whatever else they dislike.

  • Bint April 15, 2013, 2:39 pm

    Admin – with respect, you do not live here and the media cannot give you the full picture. The media may not report it to you but A LOT of people arer LIVID over this funeral and the cost. Even with half the costs, £4 million quid is too much for many of us to take.

  • Bibianne April 15, 2013, 2:57 pm

    Oh, Miss Jane, please don’t let facts get in the way of a good tongue wagging (yes, tongue FIRMLY in cheek).

  • Gail April 15, 2013, 3:01 pm

    My philosophy is this: I don’t have to agree with everyone about their political views or their actions. I can’t say I have strong feelings one way or another about Ms. Thatcher. I do have strong opinions about the WBC and bin Laden, for example. However I feel about other people and what they do still requires that I not be an a**hole. I can disagree with other views, I can say what I think. It would only diminish me to dance on anyone’s grave, metaphorically.

  • Nikki April 15, 2013, 3:32 pm

    I agree with Admin on this one wholeheartedly. You don’t have to like the deceased. You don’t have to mourn them. At the very least, there should be some sort of consideration for the fact that they, just like us, are only human, after all.

  • ladycrim April 15, 2013, 3:40 pm

    Well-said, Miss Jeanne. Very well-said indeed.

  • Cowgirl April 15, 2013, 4:18 pm

    I would like to comment on Goldie #13. I think what you say is true, that the death of Hitler and Stalin also meant an end to their terrible regimes, and it was the end of the regime that was celebrated. But with Thatcher, the end of her regime was decades before her death.

  • TimeLady April 15, 2013, 5:22 pm

    Thank you for having this up here, Admin. I personally was not alive when Ms Thatcher was in office, nor did I have anyone in my family directly affected by her radical changes whilst in charge of Britain. However, I have respect for some of the things she implemented, frustration for others (though in some cases I can see *why* she did what she did, I just wish it hadn’t affected me down the like [student loans]). I was utterly disgusted to see the celebrations and joy that she had passed, and sick to death of my Facebook feed being filled with comparisons between Ms Thatcher and various unpleasant individuals (Hitler, Stalin and Bin Laden all included), not to mention crass jokes regarding miners and Jimmy Saville. All I was able to think about was how heartbroken her family must be to see all this; Ms Thatcher isn’t around to see the celebrations and so therefore isn’t affected, but her family is. How low-down and cruel can people be? And how hard is it to think of her grieving family, and instead of being crass with these “ding dong the witch is dead” shenanigans, just keep opinions to oneself, or in company of like-minded people, rather than demonstrating left-right-and-centre about a woman whose policies and politics very likely did not affect them directly?

  • AIP April 15, 2013, 6:16 pm

    I’m not at all surprised that there is a public overflow of emotion shall we say at the news of her death, I’m just surprised at the scale of it. Vile and loathsome as the Westboro mob are, they at least never caused directly and indirectly the deaths of hundreds of people through direct action (the Belgrano) and indirect action (her foreign policy), as well as the devastation of communities which may never fully recover.

    Yes, she made the hard decisions because she thought they were the right ones to make, not because of balance or reasons discourse, but because they fit her narrow ideology and as such turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. For example, by standing firm (and ultimately capitulating after their deaths) against the hunger strikers, she made martyrs out of them – boosting recruits to the IRA and seeing a resurgence in bomb attacks and shooting in Britain, (Northern Ireland remained a bloody mess though), which had dwindled to two in the years 1980 and 1981.. Leading up to their attempt on her life in Brighton. Others have touched on her support for Pinochet and Pol Pot. So, distasteful as that graffiti is, considering its likely to be on a wall in West Belfast (or possibly in the Bogside in Derry), it’s hardly surprising.

    I won’t dance on her grave, but neither will I support the hagiography that’s being made of her life.

  • Rosie April 15, 2013, 7:14 pm

    I was pretty young when PM Thatcher held office, and being in the U.S., didn’t know so much about her. Comparing her to terrorists, though, seems pretty awful. Surely she wasn’t evil; she just held views and possibly helped pass regulations that many did not like.

    But did I feel a good bit of happiness when OBL was taken out? You bet I did! I did not care at all that this person was dead, I was elated. Didn’t mourn him for a nano-second, good riddance. I do feel some sorrow for his wives and children, who lost a person they loved. But him? Glad he’s gone, he was a cancer on this earth that needed to be removed.

  • MaRiley April 15, 2013, 9:41 pm

    Done and done. I cannot believe that Thatcher could or should be reviled. She was a giant.

  • Marozia April 16, 2013, 12:05 am

    I was not fond of Margaret Thatcher and of some of her policies, but the lady is now dead. The first female prime minister in England (and in Europe), she also was an inspiration to a lot of women in the home and workplace, but, like us, she was human and she had failings. The rejoicing of her death was tasteless.
    Don’t forget, death will come to all of us one day.

  • Catherine April 16, 2013, 1:19 am

    I was alive during the Thatcher years and profoundly disagreed with many of her policies. That said, I would no more rejoice when she died than I would over anyone’s death. She was a huge figure in our political history and her passing deserves to be honoured.
    Two more things:
    1) The stories of protests have been much exaggerated by a mischievous press.
    2) She will be remembered long after the protestors are dead and gone.

  • Louise April 16, 2013, 6:18 am

    I have nothing nice to say about Margaret Thatcher, and I’m sure she would have had nothing nice to say about me. During her ‘reign’ my father was made redundant over five times, and I have family in Northern England who she allowed to starve and freeze because of the miners strikes. When you run a government based on a total lack of compassion for working class people, don’t expect any compassion when you die.

    That said, unlike Maggie, I do believe in community. I do not celebrate or rejoice at her death because I DO have compassion. There is a lovely movement I’ve seen doing the rounds on facebook suggesting that everybody do something kind and self-sacrificing on the day of her funeral, as a way of protesting the cold selfishness of Thatcherism. That is what I shall be doing 🙂

  • michelle April 16, 2013, 8:00 am

    I don’t understand anyone who thinks this kind of demonstration over someone’s death is even remotely acceptable. Like admin, I didn’t weep for Osama Bin Laden but I didn’t rejoice over his death either; I found the whole thing -from what he started to how he ended -tragic.

    I don’t understand why disagreeing (even vehemently) with someone’s politics has to translate into hatred of the person themselves. Whatever happened to a little civil discourse? Or was civil discourse never truly a thing of the past when it comes to politics? (I’m currently reading “John Adams” by David McCollough and ohhh, man – the words were a little more old-fashioned back then but the feelings behind them HAVE NOT CHANGED! I’ve actually gotten a chuckle out of quite a bit of it…)

    Anyway…I hope Mrs. Thatcher gets a dignified send-off. Whether you agree with her politics or not, she was one of us even if only on a human level.

    RIP, Maggie.

  • James April 16, 2013, 8:35 am

    As a Brit I can only echo what most others have said, I disagreed (strongly) with Thatcher’s policies but I don’t see any reason to rejoice in her death. If anything I can only imagine it’s a relief for the poor woman’s family; caring for a loved one with alzheimers or dementia is one of the hardest things in the world.

    And as for the funeral; Thatcher was someone who is viewed as a hero by a large minority of the country, in that circumstance it would seem right that she has a state (or similar) funeral paid for by the nation, regardless of whether we think she as a person deserved it. Funerals are for the living, after all.

  • Library Diva April 16, 2013, 9:52 am

    @Lia, re. WBC: I once read a blog post by a journalist who worked in the community where WBC is based. He argued that this is not a “church” or “philosophy,” but rather a group of professional lawsuit-mongers. He pointed to the number of lawyers involved, and said that their protests were a little too picture-perfect. In all cases, they knew exactly where the law drew the line and managed to walk right up to it without putting a toe over it. He described a technique they used, where they came with multiple signs if changed what they were holding and chanting based on their crowd. So if they saw someone wearing a Vietnam Vet hat, they’d focus on him, looking at him, putting up their “Glad soldiers are dead” or whatever signs. Trying to provoke an incident so they can sue the guy. I found his argument rather persuasive, personally.

    • admin April 16, 2013, 12:02 pm

      However, Fred Phelps was disbarred in 1979 and under pressure ceased to practice law in Federal courts in 1987. Two of his children have been suspended from the bar from six months to a year so I don’t agree that WBC knows where to draw the line and walk right up to it since the evidence is clear they have transgressed over it and been caught. I would rather they be considered professional lawsuit mongers than a church though.

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