• Richie Crowley

My Grandfather’s Coronavirus Death Is Not Your Political Propaganda

When I heard it I reacted. I was sensitive. My grandfather has just died the day before and my first thought was “Don’t use my grandfather’s death as your political propaganda.”

On the Sean Hannity show on April 8th, Bill O’Reilly said “Many people who are dying, both here and around the world, were on their last legs anyway, and I don’t want to sound callous about that.”

Here’s the thing, when one says something callous, only to then follow it up with I don’t want to sound callous it in no way erases the callous statement that person just said.

It’s like saying, I don’t mean to offend you but “insert offensive statement here.”

You surely will offend them.

Why not own it?

Why not be brave enough to say “Many people who are dying, both here around the world, were on their last legs anyway. That’s something I believe” instead of a cowardly retraction after the damage has been done in an attempt to save face.

Some may buy it, but only seconds later his true colors came out and audiences realized that yes, he indeed meant to sound callous, he just was not brave enough to do so.

After the comment, Hannity interrupted O’Reilly saying “Hold on, you’re going to get hammered for that.”

O’Reilly responded, “Well, I don’t care. I mean, a simple man tells the truth,” later calling them, those who have passed, “damaged.” You called my grandfather “damaged.”

Why use this language, today?

We find out seconds later.

This appearance was conveniently on the day that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic primary.

Seconds after his reckless comment O’Reilly reveals his true motivation:

“One of the reasons the death rate in Italy and Spain is 10x higher than the US, and somebody can break this to Bernie Sanders, is because they have socialized medicine.”

Ah, there it is. O’Reilly shows that he cares less about the deaths of Americans than he does about advancing an agenda that opposes universal health care transforming a death due to COVID-19 into a political weapon.

Yes, my grandfather was sick but had the administration that O’Reilly supports not wasted months responding to this pandemic, maybe he would have lived long enough so that we as a family could join him bedside and say goodbye together, rather than rely on a group text to replace a physical embrace.

There’s a transitive relationship being communicated here as well. To endorse this language and diminish front line experiences suggesting the “Far-left wants chaos and carnage” is also to endorse the current administration’s failed response and continued deflection.

In a public response, O’Reilly claims “they are not interested in facts and will try to punish people who provide perspective” to which I disagree with because the facts are that the United States now has 3x as many cases as any other country in the world and within days will be the country home to the most COVID-19 related deaths in the world.

Medical systems aside, using my grandfather’s death as a political weapon to support agendas against universal health care, is also using my grandfather’s death to endorse other oppressive policies that oppose a Sanders like candidate, and support the one responsible for this carnage.


Well, today’s it’s incredibly difficult to offer perspective with neutrality.

Had O’Reilly been brave enough to say cite the CDC’s report that 73 percent of all Americans hospitalized for COVID-19 have a preexisting health condition that made them vulnerable for the contagion, while in the same response bringing attention to a completely failed response, things might be different.

So, in an attempt to offer that neutral perspective I must admit my hypocrisy.

If I am to ask leaders not to politicize my grandfather’s death, I would need to dismiss the opportunistic response from the Biden campaign.

In response to the actions of the Trump administration, the Biden campaign created Joe’s Leadership During The COVID-19 Pandemic and released The Biden Plan to combat Coronavirus (COVID-19) and prepare for future global health threats.

But I can’t.

In exploring this response, I realized that I, in fact, am asking leaders to use my grandfather’s death as political propaganda.

I’m just asking them to use it a certain way.

I am asking them to use it to acknowledge the wasted weeks between January 3rd and March 21st, where an administration failed to protect our nation and could have, possibly, preserved my grandfather’s life.

I am asking them to use it as an example of what could have been avoided had our leaders responded like Jacinda Arden of New Zealand has.

I am asking them to use it to expose the utter unpreparedness of the United States for a pandemic and to respond to a president that tweeted the virus is “very much under control in the USA.”

Is this what control looks like?

You even said you like small numbers…

My sensitive response is not that of a Bernie-bro either. Nor am I a native Biden defender. Early on I supported Andrew Yang, then moved to Elizabeth Warren after a friend asked: “If she was a man, how would you describe him?”

Like a bad-ass.

She is a bad-ass.

As long as we live in a bipartisan nation, everything can and will be politicized. Especially death.

I can’t ask that my grandfather’s death not be used as political propaganda, so I’ll embrace it, and ask that it is.

I’ll ask that it be used to effect change and not to justify ignorant, racist, and classist policies.

I’ll ask that it be used to educate those claiming this disease doesn’t discriminate when the truth is that it is killing disproportionate numbers of black people across the country as a result of structural racism, unequal access to healthy and fresh foods, environmental injustices, and the result of subpar housing.

I’ll ask that it be used to advocate against those suggesting that someone with diabetes or heart disease deserves to die because of their diet and lifestyle as if their choices weren’t a result of existing inequities, food desserts, lack of education and social mobility.

Yes, this is directed at the highest office in the nation, but it also trickles down through state and local seats, landing on your keyboard hoping you think twice and channel a larger understanding before you press retweet or answer Facebook’s “What’s on your mind?” personalized question with an ignorant comment.

If you are to politicize the death of someone do it to make a difference that benefits your neighbors, before you.

Ignorance is rooted in self-interest, embed this into your thinking, and then update your mind so that should you use someone’s death to advance a political agenda, that you make sure that agenda improves the lives of those most affected by existing inequities first.

Richie. Human.


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