Mollie Tibbett’s father does not want his daughter to have died in vain.
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Rob Tibbetts, the father of the slain 20-year-old college student who has become a poster child for right-wing anti-immigration activists after her death at the hands of an undocumented farm worker, took to the editorial pages of his home state’s biggest newspaper the Des Moines Register to urge the nation to stop distorting the accounts of his daughter’s death to advance racist views.
Tibbetts begins his emotional editorial with an account of he and his family’s initial response to the news of his daughter’s murder.
“Ten days ago, we learned that Mollie would not be coming home. Shattered, my family set out to celebrate Mollie’s extraordinary life and chose to share our sorrow in private. At the outset, politicians and pundits used Mollie’s death to promote various political agendas. We appealed to them and they graciously stopped. For that, we are grateful.”
Unfortunately, Tibbetts learned that, while responsible people would accede to his requests, there were others who had no regard for the family’s wishes.
“Sadly, others have ignored our request,” Tibbetts continued. “They have instead chosen to callously distort and corrupt Mollie’s tragic death to advance a cause she vehemently opposed. I encourage the debate on immigration; there is great merit in its reasonable outcome. But do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist. The act grievously extends the crime that stole Mollie from our family and is, to quote Donald Trump Jr., “heartless” and “despicable.”
The “heartless” and “despicable” comments about Mollie’s death were leveled by the president’s oldest son in an editorial in the same Des Moines Register just yesterday as he used the tragedy as an excuse to attack Democrats in general — and Senator Elizabeth Warren in particular — over their opposition to his father’s immigration policies that truly deserve those adjectives.
Tibbetts continued his impassioned response to Trump Jr.’s politicization of his daughter’s death with another exhortation for common decency, something sorely lacking in the Trump administration.
“Make no mistake, Mollie was my daughter and my best friend,” the distraught father writes. “At her eulogy, I said Mollie was nobody’s victim. Nor is she a pawn in others’ debate. She may not be able to speak for herself, but I can and will. Please leave us out of your debate. Allow us to grieve in privacy and with dignity. At long last, show some decency. On behalf of my family and Mollie’s memory, I’m imploring you to stop.
Tibbet’s explained his explicit plea to the president’s son and other racist trolls to stop their exploitation of his daughter’s death with a perfect example of why the twisted logic they use to blame every immigrant for Mollie’s death is so terribly wrong.
“The person who is accused of taking Mollie’s life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people. To suggest otherwise is a lie. Justice in my America is blind. This person will receive a fair trial, as it should be. If convicted, he will face the consequences society has set. Beyond that, he deserves no more attention.”
“To the Hispanic community, my family stands with you and offers its heartfelt apology. That you’ve been beset by the circumstances of Mollie’s death is wrong. We treasure the contribution you bring to the American tapestry in all its color and melody. And yes, we love your food.”
Tibbett’s goes on to explain some of the personal reasons for his views.
“My stepdaughter, whom Mollie loved so dearly, is Latina. Her sons — Mollie’s cherished nephews and my grandchildren — are Latino. That means I am Hispanic. I am African. I am Asian. I am European. My blood runs from every corner of the Earth because I am American. As an American, I have one tenet: to respect every citizen of the world and actively engage in the ongoing pursuit to form a more perfect union.”
“Given that, to knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag. It incites fear in innocent communities and lends legitimacy to the darkest, most hate-filled corners of the American soul. It is the opposite of leadership. It is the opposite of humanity. It is heartless. It is despicable. It is shameful,” Tibbetts proclaimed forecefully.
The grieving father closes his editorial with a plea to make his daughter’s death a teachable moment.
“We have the opportunity now to take heed of the lessons that Mollie, John McCain and Aretha Franklin taught — humanity, fairness and courage. For most of the summer, the search for Mollie brought this nation together like no other pursuit. There was a common national will that did transcend opinion, race, gender and geography. Let’s not lose sight of that miracle. Let’s not lose sight of Mollie.”
“Instead, let’s turn against racism in all its ugly manifestations both subtle and overt. Let’s turn toward each other with all the compassion we gave Mollie. Let’s listen, not shout. Let’s build bridges, not walls. Let’s celebrate our diversity rather than argue over our differences. I can tell you, when you’ve lost your best friend, differences are petty and meaningless.”
“My family remains eternally grateful to all those who adopted Mollie so completely and showered us with so much care, compassion and generosity. Please accept our desire to remain private as we share our loss. We love Mollie with all our hearts and miss her terribly. We need time.”
It takes an extraordinary person to transform their deepest sorrow to a message of public service and reconciliation. Rob Tibbetts may have lost his daughter and his best friend, but he’s gained the respect and admiration of millions of Americans who can now take his heartfelt and bitter-free response to his family’s loss as an example of how to respect others by not generalizing evil as an ethnically or racially specific trait. If only every American shared his intelligent and perceptive viewpoint.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.