When I first heard news of David Koch's death on Friday, I figured what was coming, but not in what magnitude.
I figured that the billionaire (once tied with his brother Charles as the 11th wealthiest person in the world according to Forbes) would receive a decidedly partisan obituary cut between the left and the right, as he bankrolled a number of conservative causes during his lifetime.
And while this is precisely what happened, there was no way to anticipate the vitriol that would be spewed and endorsed by figureheads of the left.
Singer Bette Midler hurled insults not only at Koch, but at a conservative pundit who expressed her condolences: "With all due respect, Ms. James, fuck you. 'A friend of liberty' Yes, his own and his family's. The rest of us can drink leaded water and burn in the climate change he produced."
Actor Ron Perlman tweeted in reference to Koch's elder brother, Charles, "Wishing the Koch brothers a speedy reunion" just hours after David's death was announced.
Plenty others felt the need to propagate hate on social media at Koch's death, adding a bloody new chapter to a different obituary: that of civility in American politics.
Plenty of finger-pointing can be passed around in trying to find the origin of said murder. Most can't see past Trump for the simple reason that the bully pulpit truly is loud and powerful. But hate isn't a monopolized commodity. It's times like these that it does well to remember that even as a dead man's body lays still warm on the table, hate finds a hearty home on the left as much as it does on the right.
Now, feel free to disagree with Koch's politics. I certainly do. Climate change is a serious issue and, despite what Koch Industries claims to have done to reduce pipe leakage and the like, the Kochs were probably a greater part of the problem than they were the solution.
But that hardly justifies claiming he was a liberty-hating zealot, whose brother should just hurry up and die already.
Atop an Independent article claiming that "David Koch shaped America for the worse," autoplays a video showing him breaking ground at his revolutionary cancer treatment center at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. So, it's to be understood that villains not only poison the planet but give away millions of their money to fight terminal disease?
And it's not only at Sloan Kettering where Koch contributed to fighting cancer, but also the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Johns Hopkins, and MIT just to name a few. And it's not just cancer research where Koch allocated dollars, but also ballet at the Lincoln Center and the dinosaur exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History among other artistic endeavors.
Surely this is the work of a monster.
Even in the event that his contributions to the apolitical aren't impressive enough for progressives, what of his support of progressive causes? His opposition to the Iraq War and the War on Drugs. His support of abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice reform. You know, just to name a few.
As a Wisconsinite who was acutely politically aware during the 2012 recall election, I know all too well the demonization of the Koch brothers and their "dark money" agenda. I mean, pay no attention that George Soros or Tom Steyer (who is a Democrat running for president!) do the same thing, just with different focuses. If they're saints David Koch must be the Devil.
But don't just take my word for it. After all, even chief activist and actress Alyssa Milano had choice words for those bashing Koch: "Celebrating a man's death while fighting to abolish the death penalty is a bad look for democrats/humans."
Well said, Alyssa. You might even say that our humanity should transcend our political affiliations. This is as much an indictment on the characters of Bette Midler and Ron Perlman as it is when Donald Trump says that he's happy John McCain is dead and gone. Despicable nature knows no party line.
In short, I'm saddened. Although David Koch in all likelihood fairly knew what he was getting himself into with his political contributions, the free exchange of ideas, right or wrong, should not bring the wish of death on anyone. Of that, there used to be some consensus.
If only we could have consensus-builders, from the bully pulpit to the Twittersphere, raise that much-needed mantle again.