Former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away on Tuesday. She was 92.
A Fresno State professor tweeted out some accusations about the First Lady, and more or less danced on her grave.
The backlash was intense. The personal consequences may be more so.
A lot of people indulge the impulse to express delight when a famous person dies.
Often, they deserve it. But most people agree that Barbara Bush’s death does not need to be celebrated.
Professor Randa Jarrar, however, is not most people.
“Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. F–k outta here with your nice words.”
She received thousands of replies and even spent a few hours debating people. She has since made her Twitter account private.
Free speech does not mean freedom from consequences, however.
She has since revealed:
“Currently on leave from Fresno State. This is my private account and represents my opinions.”
Fresno State, in the mean time, has put out a statement reading:
“On behalf of Fresno State, I extend my deepest condolences to the Bush family on the loss of our former First Lady, Barbara Bush.”
That’s an appropriate way to start.
“We share the deep concerns expressed by others over the personal comments made today by Professor Randa Jarrar, a professor in the English Department at Fresno State.”
They emphasize something that is very important, however.
“Her statements were made as a private citizen, not as a representative of Fresno State.”
That won’t prevent certain anti-education opportunists from trying to frame her as a typical “university elite” or whatever.
“Professor Jarrar’s expressed personal views and commentary are obviously contrary to the core values of our University, which include respect and empathy for individuals with divergent points of view, and a sincere commitment to mutual understanding and progress.”
It’s difficult to prove that Barbara Bush was or was not a racist, so let’s look at the other “accusation” leveled against her — regarding who one of her sons grew up to be.
Was the US Invasion of Iraq perpetrated under pretenses that were later revealed to be false, deceiving the international community and the American public?
Did the Bush Administration commit acts that many consider to be war crimes during that extended conflict and during the global “War on Terror,” including torturing enemy soldiers and also some people who were found to be innocent?
But while he may have had the literacy level of a child, George W. Bush was a grown man. Like, in his fifties. Also, he was the President of the United States.
And while it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be held accountable — unless you believe in Hell — for the atrocities committed during his Presidency, that doesn’t mean that we shift the blame to his mom.
What is important to remember about Barbara Bush is that she was widely considered to be George H. W. Bush’s better half.
For example, she supported the Equal Rights Amendment and was vocally pro-choice, unlike most of the Republican establishment in recent decades.
She avoided commenting on her political views during her husband’s candidacy out of fear that she would alienate his voter base.
But even if she had not been as good as she was, she was never President herself, nor was she a monster.
With that in mind, don’t her grandchildren and great-grandchildren deserve consideration?
Say what you will about actual Presidents, but it seems unethical to express this kind of glee simply because you disliked her husband and son.
Personally, I’m not an advocate for pretending that someone was better than they actually were just because they died.
But I certainly don’t support pretending that they were worse, either.
Celebrate the deaths of bad people if you want to, but don’t target their relatives in your zeal.
Randa Jarrar exercised her right to free speech. But that right does not exempt her from consequences of her words, personally or professionally.
Now … does it make sense for her to be placed on leave for that simple tweet (and the tweetstorm that followed)? It might.
This doesn’t seem like something that should get her fired, however.
She’s not advocating violence or a violent ideology anywhere that we’ve seen.
It seems that she’s just being unkind on her own personal social media.