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Disrespect for public servant's death is contemptible

The responses of many citizens to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death have been disgraceful. Thatcher, who suffered from dementia for many years, died at 87 of a stroke on April 8. When news of her death hit the British news, it caused a variety of reactions, some of which were highly negative, such as public burnings of Thatcher’s picture, as well as street parties all across the United Kingdom. “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” from The Wizard of Oz reached 10th place in U.K. charts within two days of Thatcher’s death, according to The Independent.

Thatcher was a controversial figure. Her death does not dismiss the problems of her time in office, nor should it prevent discussion of her strengths and weaknesses as a leader. However, burning her picture and dancing in the streets after her death is disrespectful to the public servant, no matter how controversial her policies were.

Celebrating anyone’s death is questionable even in the most extreme of situations. Thatcher was a severely unpopular leader in some parts of the United Kingdom, due to a variety of legislation she instituted, including blocks on union power and the privatization of heavy industry. Her political and economic policy of monetarism, privatization, and self-help, known as Thatcherism, did not endear her to all of the United Kingdom, as it led to high unemployment and financial inequality.

Despite many people’s intense feelings about her, Thatcher was a human being, and celebrating her death is morally problematic. Many reactions to her death — like burning her picture and equating her to a witch — are personal attacks on Thatcher, not criticisms of her policies. While rejoicing in Thatcher’s absence from politics is acceptable, celebrating her death is not a justifiable way to criticize her policies.Thatcher was neither an economic savior nor a miserly dictator; she was loved and hated in Britain with equal passion.

Attacking leaders in a personal way does not lead to change; Thatcher was the face of her policies. But playing “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” on repeat does not change conservative U.K. policies. Passion has an extremely important place in politics, but it must be properly directed — at policies, not public servants ­— to be useful.