Updated: Jan 22, 2019
By Zach Ziegler
Last week, at the short age of 26, conservative columnist and pundit Bre Payton suddenly passed following a short bout with H1N1 (swine flu) and meningitis.
Following her passing, numerous tributes have been wonderfully written to her from her colleagues and countless tweets posted from friends, other fans, and haters proving that her voice had a great effect. Her death has torn through circles of young conservatives, in ways that not even the deaths of conservative politicians last year have. Despite all of this and a week gone by, many are still troubled by her death which is uncommon to the likes of the unknown. But, why?
To her, I’m a stranger; just a follower of her work who has never met or spoken with her. Her relationship to me was only an author whose pieces I regularly appreciated and opinion I sometimes heard on television. I imagine that I share little in common with her, other than that we are both conservative, Christian, and 26. Except that’s exactly what stings. Her writing evinces that she was better at all three of those things than I. Where I was unsure on a conservative stance, she provided it with clarity and ease. My sins are well-deserving a penance of death and accomplishments beyond lacking in comparison to hers. So, her death provokes my questioning of God, “Why her? Why not me or another with far less potential to serve your divine purposes?” Like many young Americans, I gained an interest in politics during the 2016 election cycle. This was also around the same time Bre became a staff writer at The Federalist to which I was subscribed, and so my political knowledge grew with her experience there. In near-religious form, I would read their articles each morning, and among others, her name became one often sought after due to her hot takes on abortion, feminism, and a myriad of other current affairs. Topics in which I lacked good grounding were heavily reinforced by Bre and her Federalist colleagues.
A common criticism of younger generations is how misinformed or ignorant many are to civics, history, and literature. Bre must have recognized this and took it upon herself to do her part in providing education to her readers through synopses of her latest lesson from Hillsdale’s free online courses. She wrote on numerous subjects from Ancient Greece to Mark Twain. One can assume from the quality of writing at The Federalist that they are reading very well-read, well-educated authors. Bre’s pedigree heavily reinforces that, and despite it, she made efforts to consistently challenge and educate herself. She provides a wonderful example for all to never stop learning.
Just like many of the political perplexions she addressed, the answer of why Bre’s death being difficult to understand is ironically also found in her work. Bre’s writing was convincing, but not in a strongarm kind of way. It was convincing because it felt authentic, relatable to the younger constituent, and every tribute to her describes her as such. She didn’t have a political background or a professorship, and such ethos wasn’t required. It was refreshing to see a pundit so well argue points while not being motivated by gaining power or getting paid. She also didn’t make it seem like a lecture; it was actually refreshing to see someone our age say what we were thinking when we lacked the courage to say it ourselves. She was an intellectual millennial voice that was badly needed, and one other young people should seek to emulate.
Many young stars die from some kind of drug abuse or overdose, which is a product of their own decisions, accidental or not. Young people often die in car accidents or from drunk drivers, which are a result of other people’s selfish decisions. Thousands of young men and women die in the armed services, but those deaths serve a purpose. Bre’s death was none of these things, and there seems to be no real reason, blame, or purpose to it, which is why it seems so unfair to me and to others. However, I know her death holds great purpose, calling attention to her life and the good she provided within it through her work, motivating multitudes of others to do the same.
Among a small cohort, Bre Payton demonstrated that not every millennial is what we saw at college. That strong women exist on both sides of the aisle. That it’s okay to be both young and a conservative, a Christian, and she provided views and information to affirm and enforce such beliefs. In a modern culture that portrays those on the right as culturally deviant, it was her voice that gave confidence to others to use their own. I hope Bre’s family and friends find even a small bit of comfort knowing that Bre’s writing made so many of us more well-informed voters, prouder Americans, and closer to God. Bre’s death will move people to seek out her work and point of view, which in turn will undoubtedly have similar effects. All are intellectually bereft without her perspective but are inspired by her drive, influenced by her work, and heartened by her memory. The opinions of the writer do not directly reflect those of Expressions. All of Expressions wish heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of Bre Payton and pray for their peace.