Death does not mean automatic sainthood

Can you name any bad things about George Washington or Abraham Lincoln?

The two presidents are widely regarded as de-facto holy figures in American society. We learn about their military exploits in history classes, their contributions to modern democracy in civics classes and are generally encouraged to stick to the notion that they were the paragons of virtue.

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This tends to be a trend with our leaders after they pass away, as any negative feelings towards them are largely hushed by prevailing notions of not speaking ill of the dead. This was recently exemplified by the death of Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. While Thatcher certainly advanced the role of women in global politics to the furthest it had ever been at that time, she also made a few questionable decisions during her tenure that earned her the “Iron Lady” nickname and ire of the British people.

While we certainly don’t advocate for the demonization of the dead, it should be noted that we must not automatically canonize them as saints either. A life is made up of both positive and negative actions and we must not lose sight of that fact in the light of the passage from life to death.