Death: Ding Dong? Are we required to speak well of the dead?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Death
Margaret Thatcher in 2004, dressed for Ronald Reagan's funeral.

Margaret Thatcher in 2004, dressed for Ronald Reagan’s funeral.

From Dr. Wayne Baker: Welcome back Columnist Terry Gallagher. Terry is our most popular and most experienced contributing writer. You may recall his past series on Baseball, ‘The Real World, Aging—and Soup. One of his best recipes was recently republished in the new Feed The Spirit section.
Here is Terry’s first column this week …

Must we speak well of the dead?

The question came up earlier this year after Margaret Thatcher died. She was “the most dominant and the most divisive force in British politics in the second half of the 20th century,” according to her obituary in The Guardian.

It’s her divisiveness that many remembered when she died. In addition to whatever else she did for the U.K, Thatcher broke unions, stigmatized the poor, deregulated markets and privatized public services, leaving a lot of damaged lives in her wake.

So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that her millions of opponents were in no mood to speak well of her when she died.

In fact, an online campaign began immediately to encourage Britons to buy copies of the song Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead—and thus to move it up to the top of the pop charts for the week of her funeral.

Judy Garland’s 51-second song from the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz made it to the Number 2 spot that week.

“Let’s not forget you also have a family that is grieving for a loved one who is yet to be buried,” the BBC’s controller said after the radio outlet played only a five-second clip in their weekly round-up of the pop charts. “I think there’s a large part of the population that finds it disrespectful but then on the other hand you have a part of society which has decided to demonstrate in this way.”

From this side of the Atlantic, how did you react to the Ding Dong controversy?

Must we speak well of the dead?

Who comes to your mind?

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Comments: (7)
Categories: Respect


  1. Joe Grimm says:

    Interesting question that obituary writers sometimes wrestle with.

    Should an obit be a news story that represents all the most important factors and issues, or should it be a tribute?

    And should the rule be different or the famous?

    This is one reason obits sometimes read strangely.

  2. This begs the question, what if you weren’t really a fan of The Dead? I admit enjoying Touch of Grey and Ripple in Still Water, though.

  3. Bobbie Lewis says:

    I had mixed thoughts when I read about the death of journalist Helen Thomas, whom I long admired as a pioneering woman in the field. But when she died, the first thing that came into my mind was “anti-Semite!” I’m trying to get past these negative thoughts to concentrate on the great deal of good Thomas did in her long career.

  4. Dave Thompson says:

    No. Absolutely not. This is an effort to suppress the truth of situations and individuals and is dishonest. This practice has been foisted upon us by Churches & families who do not want to hear or respond to the truth. Like not listing cause of death this evades the truth. The excuse that this “protects” the remaining family is a dishonest excuse. If someone dies of advanced alcoholism or drug use/abuse; put it inn there. Judgmental people will be so anyway and there are few real family secrets that are not known.

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