I made the decision to use this last week of 2021 to look back on the year that was, and between Christmas weekend and today, several meaningful deaths have taken place, deaths of good men and true. Harry Reid was a lion of the Senate, with the mixed legacy of members of that august body- he usually tried to do the right thing, but he was prevented from being a real firebrand by the stagnating influence of the position- the US Senate is supposedly a collegial place, which means that it is a stultifying place. This is by design, the Senate protects Establishment interests, so even a good person can't accomplish much to effect real change.
Desmond Tutu was, simply put, a moral titan, a force for civil rights and equal justice... he crusaded against apartheid, acted as a midwife to help birth the multiracial government of South Africa, and headed that nation's Truth and Reconciliation commission. He was an exemplar of intersectionality, campaigning not just for racial justice, but for women's rights and LGBTQ rights. If anyone is a candidate for sainthood (I don't know how this works in the Anglican church), it is he.
On a less rarefied note, John Madden, football coach and sports announcer, was one of the great ambassadors of American football. He used his coaching expertise (a .759 winning percentage) to explain the game with his 'chalkboard' (sometimes used for comedic purposes) and he was entertaining, with his exclamations of "BOOM" after spectacular plays. He was a nonesuch and he revolutionized sports commentary.
I'm going to cheat a little bit, and mention a death that I should have been aware of when it occurred. Back in August, mad reggae/dub genius Lee Scratch Perry died. Perry was instrumental in the development of reggae, producing and recording such artists as Bob Marley and the Wailers, the Upsetters, and Junior Murvin. He was also a pioneer of dub music, which incorporates a lot of studio wizardry, such as the use of reverb, tape loops, and faders. I'm chagrined that I didn't learn of Mr Perry's death until a few weeks ago.
I really don't have the time to do deep dives into any of these deaths, but I would have felt remiss if I didn't mention them before year's end. At least all of these men lived long, productive lives, generally benefiting humanity to some or other extent. That's about the highest praise I can think of to heap on anybody.