For some reason, Andrew Breitbart loved to hate me. He named himself the executive producer of a fictional TV show he called That Broccoli’s Racist! The show’s host was me. The undergirding idea was to discredit the continuing existence of racism by saying “People like Touré will call anything racist, even a vegetable.” I found this funny, though also dangerous and offensive. To suggest that racism no longer exists is in and of itself a form of racism and a hollow argument that gives comfort to those who wish to cripple any discussion of actual racism. Breitbart’s persistent Twitter attacks, couched in mentions of “our” show, were strangely obsessive and discomforting. He insisted on our being enemies. I wasn’t sure why I was so valuable to him in that role. I often wondered why he wasn’t trying to fry bigger fish or if there wouldn’t be a day when I’d turn around and realize he was lurking in the shadow behind me, stalking. He was an intellectual soldier but one I felt little need to engage because as long as conservatives had friends like him, enemies could do far less damage.
Even though he considered me an enemy, I imagine that if we’d ever found ourselves in the same airport, we would’ve been able to have a drink and a good time. I cannot say the same for many other people who see me as an enemy. So now that he is gone, I raise a glass and salute my departed enemy. The disagreements we had in life are no longer relevant. He is not here, so why continue fighting with his legacy? Death is disruptive. It changes life for the rest of us. The battlefield of American political thought has lost a loud, weird knight. I’m not going to joust with his ghost. I don’t think questions of conservatism and liberalism remain relevant when the conversation turns to mortality. I don’t envision souls in heaven caring about the winds of national politics. (Surely those in hell have far greater worries.)
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When he was here, I thought of him as a dangerous though barely effectual ideological comedian/Internet shock jock/wannabe public intellectual. But the moment I realized he was gone, he transformed in my mind into nothing less than a committed soldier for his side, by which I mean both conservatism and the family for whom he so ably provided. That is not hypocritical; it’s human. Death should temper how we think of people or at least how we speak of them. It’s inhuman to celebrate the death of an enemy unless they were engaged in trying to kill you or succeeding at oppressing you. Breitbart was not nearly that powerful. We gain nothing and our spirit loses in hating him now that his body is in the ground. So I toss a flower of respect onto his memory, even if he wouldn’t have done it for me. Why? Because I determine my rules. So Godspeed, Andrew. America won’t be the same without you.