Rush Limbaugh has died.
When I was nine, my father bought his first book, The Way Things Ought to Be. It sat on his living room coffee table, alongside a growing stack of Limbaugh’s other mean-spirited “comedy” polemics slamming lesbians, feminists, “politically correct” liberals—anyone who wasn’t a white man—for the remainder of my childhood, eventually joined by another pile of easily disproven history books written by Limbaugh and all the Limbaugh wannabes that popped up in his hateful wake.
My father was a brilliant man. That’s not a daughter bragging. He was the smartest person in our town: got science degrees for fun, memorized all the birds of North America, invented gardening machinery in our backyard after working out the physics and mechanical engineering aspects on notepads scattered across the kitchen table, teaching himself all the math he needed to know. He read all the books on my high school reading list, all the literature collected in dusty boxes in our attic from various dead relatives, most of the books I was assigned for my MFA and PhD.
But he willfully put aside all the logic and reason he purported to live by in order to buy wholeheartedly into the obvious lies of a grifter getting rich by peddling bigotry to men who not only bought it but felt an outsized, cruel pride in the act of having bought it. There were other men who sold similar products, but Rush was the first. It was Rush’s books and the radio show he listened to each day, getting angrier and angrier as he smoked cigarettes in the garage or on the back porch, taking in that constant, hateful sermon preaching ideas that were the actual opposite of Christ’s: women, gays, liberals, anyone who didn’t look like white men were taking away white men’s right to speak by attempting to use their own voices.
My father is not dead but we no longer speak. This is not an unusual outcome for someone who listened to Rush Limbaugh as a child and grew up to loudly disagree. That rift is for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with Rush Limbaugh, once awarded a Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump for all the work he did over the course of a lifetime assuring America’s white fathers, brothers, uncles, and sons that their feelings were more important than non-White people, women’s, and LGBTQ people’s experience. But for me, the divide starts with a fissure: that man convincing my father that the way things ought to be was a monologue of white men talking and everyone else shutting up and listening. I’ve written about it plenty.
And I don’t want to ever think about that man again except to say for the last time: Fuck Rush Limbaugh, fuck everyone who liked him, and good fucking riddance. The world is a better place for his death.