- By Marya HannunMarya Hannun is a Ph.D. student in Arabic and Islamic studies at Georgetown University. Follow her on Twitter at: @mrhannun.
Perhaps nothing speaks to how polarizing a figure Margaret Thatcher was (and continues to be) than the varied reactions to her passing. As the day comes to a close, many in Britain have mourned the former prime minister’s death, including current Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut a European trip short to lead a somber tribute to her. But others have been downright giddy.
Critics of Thatcher took to the streets (the Glasgow City Council dispersed a social media-organized “party” in a public square, citing safety concerns) and the Twittersphere to hail her death:
Margaret Thatcher is dead! Whose celebrating with a “wicked witch is dead” party on Saturday? #nowthatchersdead
— Jake Welsh (@veganfishcake) April 8, 2013
Others were more political in their forms of celebration. Referring to the miners whose unions Thatcher vigorously battled during her time as premier, British comedian Sarah Millican tweeted:
A lot of miners are discovering they can dance today.
— Sarah Millican (@SarahMillican75) April 8, 2013
Meanwhile, the irreverent website IsThatcherDeadYet.co.uk, which was set up in 2010, updated its homepage after three years to read:
All of this has led the British media to debate whether it’s appropriate to celebrate the death of the nation’s first female prime minister.
In an op-ed for the conservative Telegraph, British journalist and author Toby Young writes:
[I]f it hadn’t been for Thatcher, these same Left-wing gadflies might well be rotting in a Soviet prison camp somewhere east of the Urals. That sounds like an exaggeration, but we shouldn’t forget her contribution to ending the Cold War.
Writing in the more liberal pages of the Guardian, the American journalist Glenn Greenwald argues that Thatcher’s transgressions — which include her denunciation of Nelson Mandela and the ANC as terrorists as well as her friendship with “brutal tyrants” like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet — should not be overlooked in the rush to lionize her:
To demand that all of that be ignored in the face of one-sided requiems to her nobility and greatness is a bit bullying and tyrannical, not to mention warped. As David Wearing put it this morning in satirizing these speak-no-ill-of-the-deceased moralists: “People praising Thatcher’s legacy should show some respect for her victims. Tasteless.”
Greenwald goes on to note that Western media offered more balanced and critical coverage after the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
Whether Thatcher’s death is cause for celebration or sadness, it has made one thing clear: As Guardian sports columnist David Conn tweeted earlier today, “one major legacy was a divided country, divisions being furiously reinforced today.”