Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Goodbye, Senator Kennedy

Back in May of 2008, when we first heard about Ted Kennedy's cancer diagnosis, I asked the ladies of "Women On" to gather their thoughts on Senator Kennedy and write a few lines. When I heard of Mr. Kennedy's death today, I went in search of those posts; mine, in particular, because I knew it said what I wanted to say today.

So, rather than just post a link, I'll repost the essay in its entirety here:

I went and asked others to gather their thoughts about Ted Kennedy, and now I find I’m having difficulty corralling my own.

JFK was the first President I knew. I was only eight years old on November 22, 1963—the day his presidency was ended by an assassin’s bullet. Even so, I recall clearly the images of that day and the days following. Jackie Kennedy in her blood-stained powder-pink suit; a shaken LBJ taking the oath of office with his hand resting on a hastily acquired bible; little John-John’s grave salute; the flag-draped casket rumbling through the streets of the capitol, the prodigious assembly of the Kennedy clan on foot behind it. And the photographs—color, black & white, blurred frames of home-movie film, from as many angles as they could lay hands upon—showing the President’s head exploding…over and over and over.

Less than five years later, we were tortured by images of Kennedy’s younger brother Bobby lying on the floor of a California hotel, stunned and broken, an assassin’s bullet in his brain. I was almost thirteen when Bobby Kennedy was killed. But for some reason I don’t recall as much of the media coverage of his assassination as I do of JFK’s. Two things come to mind: I remember that the country was still reeling from the assassination of Martin Luther King two months before. And I remember Ted Kennedy, his voice strained with tears, eloquently eulogizing his brother.

I remember thinking how hard it must be to be Ted Kennedy. How must it have been to be the baby of that privileged household, and suddenly have all their political and social aspirations thrust upon his shoulders—at the callow age of 36? He most certainly was not the best nor the brightest of the Kennedy scions, but he was the last one standing. And as such, he would take on that burden. He had no choice.

Through the years, Ted has lived a difficult and challenging life. He fell heir to the Kennedy power and entitlement, but he also inherited their penchant for scandal and tragedy. Power and entitlement saved him from the Chappaquiddick scandal, but could not spare him from the tragedies of an alcoholic wife or a son crippled by cancer. And he has toughed out forty years of increasingly blood-thirsty media that find their greatest satisfaction (and readership) in toppling or at least tarnishing anything even resembling a "hero" in the public’s eye, and thus have chosen the Kennedy clan as one of their favorite targets.

Through it all, he’s been "Senator Kennedy." In 1962, he succeeded JFK as Senator from Massachusetts (the seat was virtually handed to him as soon has he became old enough to serve.) And he has held it ever since. Through the assassinations of both his brothers; from Viet Nam through 9/11 and Iraq; through the Cold War to the fall of the Soviet Union; through Democratic majorities and minorities, and the terms of eight presidents, Ted Kennedy has served. Forty-six years. Now, his constituents back him on his own merits, rather than on those of his two long-dead brothers or his politically potent surname. He’s the elder statesman…the liberal lion. The embodiment of everything the right wing loves to hate. He’s done his best.

So I wish Ted Kennedy godspeed as he faces his own bullet to the brain. May he fight the good fight, and may his brothers embrace him when it’s over.

And so they have, I'm sure...


Kathy said...

Oh, I am sure they have embraced him ... and here ... in death he is as loved as he was in life. I didn't spend much time watching the memorial or funeral. There is enough sadness in life to go round. But I caught enough to know that the good citizens of Massachusetts are going to miss, terribly, their brother. May he rest in peace.

emmapeelDallas said...

I was in Boston on Saturday, when his funeral was held. It was pouring rain, but there were people standing in the driving rain, watching President Obama deliver the eulogy on television. I haven't seen a sight like that (people standing around in weather, outside a store, watching tv in a window) since his brothers were assassinated. He was a great senator; my taxi driver to Logan today, whom I'd guess was a Haitian immigrant, mentioned what a loss it is to everyone, and I'd have to agree. We won't see the likes of him again, and that is our loss.