There are two schools of thought: One considers death an opportunity to say what we really think about a person, and the other considers it a lost opportunity. On the grounds that speaking truth to power after power is dead misses the point, my heart’s with the more chivalric second school. But let’s leave room for exceptions. 

One of them is Cathleen Falsani, who wrote in the Sun-Times last Friday, “My very first thought upon hearing of the Rev. Falwell’s passing was: Good. And I didn’t mean ‘good’ in a oh-good-he’s gone-home-to-be-with-the-Lord kind of way. I meant ‘good’ as in ‘Ding-dong, the witch is dead.” Falsani went on to call Falwell “the Tony Soprano to Pat Robertson’s Paulie Walnuts.” She said his “absence from this realm will mean one less voice telling my gay and lesbian friends that they are somehow less loved by God, that AIDS is God’s wrath, that they are to blame for calamities such as 9/11 or Katrina.” 

Falsani was blasted by conservative bloggers — some conservative bloggers — for her disrespect. Here’s the reaction of Americans for Truth, a “newly reorganized national organization devoted exclusively to exposing and countering the homosexual activist agenda,” and here’s comment at Illinois Review, “crossroads of the conservative community.” Here, on the other hand, is Christopher Hitchens talking to Anderson Cooper on CNN and making Falsani sound like a Falwell groupie. At any rate, Pat Robertson lives, and even though Monica Goodling has moved on, so does a White House stuffed with law school grads from Robertson’s Regent University. Falwell’s death does not unchange America.