Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edward M. Kennedy: What Can I Say?

Absolutely nothing that isn't being said by gzillions of media outlets and blogs everywhere. The collective coverage is adding up to a bucket of regurgitated facts and reflections. Even YouTube is overflowing with video footage of Teddy Kennedy. You'd think that after over a year of preparing his obituary and tributes someone could come up with a new approach, a fresh angle or a unique thought.

After a frustrating morning of looking for and almost despairing of finding anything that tweaked my interest at all, and just when I was about to give up, I came across Tom Degan's The Rant. When I read his post about Kennedy's death, The lion sleeps, I didn't clutch my throat and cry out, "Oh my God, that's so profound." Nope, instead when I came across something that struck a chord, I lit a cigarette, sipped my coffee and quietly reflected about a man of limitless compassion, drive, intelligence, talent and wit - a man who devoted his life to his country for nearly 47 years.

In a life that is littered with ironies, here's the biggest one of all: His three older brothers - Joe, Jack and Bobby - are eternally frozen in our imagination as the personifications of youth and vigor (or "vigah"). How poignant that our final image of the baby of that family will be as an old man, frail and mortally ill.

Strange, hadn't thought of it quite that way. I'm about 10 years younger than Ted and had only been out of high school two years when he won his first senate seat in 1962. I volunteered for John but was too young to vote when he ran for president and I supported Robert when he began his quest for the presidency. So, despite having the Kennedy's in my life for nearly 50 years, I never dealt with the idea that "the baby" had grown old and frail.

It was a horrible automobile accident forty years ago this summer, which ended the life of a young woman, that would forever end his chance to pick up the torch that had fallen due to the madness of two different assassins. I know this might sound strange coming from someone who was such an admirer of the man, but in hindsight I am happy Ted Kennedy lost the Democratic primaries to President Carter. It was only after he lost that race - only when he came to terms with the truth that he would never be president - that he became the lion of the senate that history will justly remember him as.

True. Ted Kennedy didn't exactly hit the ground running when he first began serving in the Senate. He stumbled around for a few years making mistakes, using bad judgement and seeming to not be able to come to terms with the tragedies that plagued him. I'm also glad he lost to Carter in 1980.

So many "red state Americans" who regarded him with suspicion if not outright hatred, will probably never even realize how much they owe Senator Kennedy. It's kink of sad that a lot of the people Kennedy worked the hardest for despised him with a passion born of decades of anti-Kennedy propaganda. Nothing was handier for a Republican running in a conservative district than the image of Bogeyman Ted in a campaign ad. It usually worked. I wonder how these people would react if tomorrow - just for a day, mind you - every law Teddy Kennedy is responsible for were made null and void. Call it a hunch but I have a strong feeling that more people than you might suspect are going to miss him now that he's gone.

Think about it, more than 300 bills Kennedy and his staff wrote have been enacted into law. (Wikipedia) And unlike some congressional types, he didn't just talk the talk, he walked the walk across that aisle.

We're a better country because for seventy-seven years Teddy Kennedy walked amongst us. His impact on the country he loved so much will be felt for generations. The loss his passing means to progressive politics in the United States is incalculable. We need him at this moment in history more than we ever needed him before. It's so unspeakably sad. He's gone and he's not coming back. Now he belongs to the ages.

So true and I too am feeling enormously sad.


  1. Yes Kennedy's name is on over 300 bills and he was a champion for the poor but all conservatives will ever say about Kennedy is Chappaquidick and he had a drinking problem.

    It's been pretty disgusting, really, some of the things I've heard from the right.

  2. Everything I hear from the right is disgusting and the deviousness of their actions are akin to hitting someone below the belt.