When Richard Daley died, Harold Washington said he was glad he’s gone. Specifically, he used the words “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” When Steve Jobs died, Richard Stallman had the same words to say.
I’m somewhat sympathetic to Washington’s evaluation of Daley, and I actually disagree with Stallman and personally consider Jobs still worthy of recognition as a hero despite my belief that some of his business values and actions are condemnable. But I do think “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” is a good set of words to express a certain important sentiment: the sentiment that while one still believes in restraining oneself from taking glee over another’s death in and of itself, one believes that particular person to have proven to be enough of a consistent and persistent threat to society that one could be happy for the world that that person’s death has paved the way from them to no longer be directly damaging it.
I personally believe in an essential, fundamental, and intrinsic value to life itself, and in each and every instance of life itself. I believe I will never say I’m glad anyone is dead, in that I am happy about precisely the death and not its effects, although the progression of humanity’s actions over the years have managed to cause me to begin this sentence with “I believe I will never say” rather than “I will never say”. If I’m particularly angry in the moment, I might say I’m glad someone died, but what I would mean is that I’m glad they’re gone. There are humans that have terribly, terribly ruined this world, but my belief in the undiminishable base value in each life requires me to at most find value in lives not ruined as a result of a death, and not just the death.
This distinction having been expounded upon, David Koch is a person who very clearly falls under this category. I am not glad he’s dead because I am not glad anyone is dead, but I am so, so glad he’s not around anymore to screw America up further. He is a case of “I’m glad he’s gone” that causes me to almost have a concept of “I’m glad he’s dead”.
The ethically unacceptable actions that David Koch has taken are numerous. His company stole resources from Native American lands. He has tirelessly fought Social Security. And he has been a paragon of the disproportionate influence those with excessive money have on politics.
And it is in this last item that Koch’s most damaging mark on mankind lies: his work in climate change denial. The degree to which he dedicated his dozens of billions of dollars in wealth to obscuring the scientific facts of climate change for the protection of his oil industry is remarkable. Even the GOP used to believe that climate change was a serious issue, several decades ago. Koch bought the GOP enough that pretty much the entire party has reneged. Now, the United States can’t make environmental progress because such a powerful billionaire has built a political empire capable of actually stopping science and facts in its tracks.
We that have to inherit this sickly planet infected by David Koch’s work in disinformation should all be glad that he is gone. And because of him, this place’s future is a lot more grim than it should have been, if we had taken care of it during the most crucial window of its time. His life has taken an incredible toll on the other lives around and the lives there are to be. There is so much more work we must now do to keep this planet livable, but at least, now, David Koch is gone.