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Bre Payton | Twitter

Pol­itics should not follow death.

After the sudden death of 26-year-old jour­nalist and former col­league of mine Bre Payton in late December, the Internet — as it often does — turned ugly. It dragged in pol­itics, per­sonal vendettas, and false infor­mation labeling Bre an “anti-vaxxer” to turn a tragedy into a callous punch line. And although the majority of responses to tweets from mourning col­leagues and friends were empa­thetic, plenty still ran in the vein of “good rid­dance.”

This is unac­ceptable.

Bre died of H1N1, com­monly known as swine flu, and pos­sibly menin­gitis, according to a statement from her family. People took this infor­mation and paired it with an old sar­castic tweet from Bre that, when mis­in­ter­preted, cast her as anti-vaccine. Except she never spoke out against vac­ci­na­tions, according to Ben Domenech, founder of The Fed­er­alist and Bre’s col­league. People looking for a bad-faith reading simply took a tongue-in-cheek tweet and ran.

If it had been only Twitter trolls and those with little dignity or decency using her death as fodder for pol­itics, that would be one thing. But even The Fed­er­alist, her home pub­li­cation, pub­lished a piece by Emily Domenech con­trasting Bre’s life to that of recently-elected New York rep­re­sen­tative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While it was most likely meant as a tribute to Bre, it felt sullied by what seemed like an oppor­tunistic pot-shot at a dis­liked politician. It is pos­sible to say nice things about one person without dragging another down.

Bre acted as a mentor not only to me, but to other members of The Hillsdale Collegian’s edi­torial staff. She served as a fellow on a 2018 trip to Israel through The Philos Project. On this trip, we got to see her self­lessness, wisdom, and joy. I also had the oppor­tunity to work with her in 2016 at The Fed­er­alist. Although I was only an intern, she took time to get to know me and guide me through my time with the pub­li­cation. I con­sis­tently saw the hap­piness she brought to other people.

Bre’s death should not have been politi­cized. Her death was untimely, sudden, and unpre­ventable. She was not slaugh­tered by a gunman. She was not a victim of a neg­ligent policy. Her death was the byproduct of a medical fluke and should have been treated as such.

This will happen again. It will happen to someone on the “opposite” side. But pol­itics has no place in the graveyard; it has no place in grief. Com­passion for all death, all grieving, all strug­gling, regardless of pol­itics, is nec­essary and right. 

When it happens, be kind. Protect the hurting.

It’s what Bre would have done.  

Jordyn Pair is a senior studying Soci­ology and Rhetoric and Public Address.

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Jordyn Pair
Jordyn Pair is from Milford, Michigan and plans to study Rhetoric and Public Address and Journalism. She has previously written for Spinal Column and The Madonna Herald, Madonna University's school newspaper. She enjoys writing, photography, and videography, as well as choir, martial arts, and blogging. She plans to pursue a career in journalism. email: jpair@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @jordynpair