Bias Watch

It’s OK to be happy that Pat Robertson is dead

Pat Robertson
Televangelist Pat Robertson Photo: Screenshot/YouTube

Televangelist Pat Robertson – one of the most powerful anti-LGBTQ+ voices of the 20th Century who broadcast The 700 Club to millions for 60 years – has died at the age of 93.

And it’s OK to celebrate.

For several decades, Robertson was one of the most powerful people in the country, and he didn’t use his influence to make the world a better place. He was judgmental, and he encouraged the millions who tuned into his show to judge their family members and loved ones harshly, undoubtedly making family relationships more toxic and difficult.

For example, he advised one mom to cut off her 13-year-old son’s internet access after he was caught looking at gay content online and even suggested that this is proof that her son was being sexually abused. He casually doled out terrible advice like that to parents for decades on his show.

He actively worked against education about safer sex through his organization Christian Coalition and used his television platform to oppose the use of condoms, saying that the latex barrier robs the sexual act of intimacy, even if it can save people’s lives.

Robertson was active in politics, even running for president in 1988. He spread misinformation in 2020, saying that it was Satan making people believe that President Joe Biden won the election, despite getting millions more votes than Donald Trump did. That kind of misinformation led to the deaths of five people at the January 6 Capitol Insurrection, and of course Robertson never apologized for spreading it.

And his views on LGBTQ+ people were abhorrent. He said, “AIDS is God’s way of weeding his garden,” in the 1980s. He lied in 2013 and said that gay men wear special sharp rings to cut people while shaking hands to intentionally spread HIV. He and Jerry Falwell even blamed the 9/11 attacks on LGBTQ+ people and progressives in the lead-up to a decade of attacks on gay rights, a period when states were passing bans on marriage equality and just a couple of years before George W. Bush ran one of the most homophobic presidential campaigns in history.

And this wasn’t just something he said in the distant past. In 2020 he blamed the COVID-19 pandemic on marriage equality and abortion.

Robertson used his long 93 years on Earth to make life worse for countless other people, all while enriching himself with his media empire.

While the damage he did to other people’s lives, and the deaths he was indirectly responsible for, are easy to show, there will of course be people who will wag their fingers at LGBTQ+ people for expressing anything other than sadness or silence upon his death. He was allowed to celebrate the deaths of queer people as just God weeding his garden, but how dare anyone celebrate his death, the pearl-clutchers will scold, as they do every time a notorious and powerful person dies.

But don’t listen to them. It’s perfectly valid to feel relief when a bad person dies.

“It’s not uncommon to feel relieved rather than saddened over the death of someone that caused you misery,” grief counselor Dr. Alejandra Vasquez writes on her blog. “Don’t guilt yourself into feeling sad or any other emotions that aren’t real and authentic. Simply wanting relief from the stress that someone causes you doesn’t mean that you wished death upon them or don’t respect human life. If their death was the only way to stop their behavior, then it’s natural for you to feel relieved that they died.”

“You don’t have to force yourself to feel anything other than relief. If joy and happiness happen to creep in, that’s okay, too. You can decide to either keep these different feelings to yourself or share them with your support group.”

If anything, the push to silence the diversity of feelings that happen when a bad person dies inevitably works against the already marginalized. The people Robertson spent his life attacking weren’t the most powerful or the most wealthy people, and his hateful comments were often swept aside as just his sincerely held religious beliefs. Other people’s sincerely held beliefs that they are full human beings deserving of equal dignity are apparently not as important.

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