Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy, RIP
Some thoughts on hearing the "Lion of the Senate" has passed away. I hope there is a heaven, and I hope that he's now reunited with his brothers.

I'm not a Roman Catholic nor am I Irish, and although once a Democrat, I am no longer. Nevertheless, the Kennedy family has been on my radar most of my life, rather obsessively on my radar, I'll admit, perhaps because of the accident my birth year and perhaps also because of the fact that I tend to be something of a news junkie. I was in the sixth grade when John F. Kennedy was shot--an impressionable time in any kid's life. Of course I can recount "where I was" when I heard about his death, as almost any person who was alive on that day can do. I was in the Slavens Elementary School cafeteria eating lunch when a very scary, serious adult voice came over the school intercom to tell us the tragic news. I cut out every newspaper story of JFK for the next week, intending to create a scrapbook. It seemed like the right thing to do. I don't think I'd ever seen 4-inch headlines in the newspaper before. JFK's assassination and the events surrounding that time seemed to imprint the Kennedy family story on my psyche for life.

Next came the shooting of Bobby Kennedy in a cafeteria hallway of a California hotel. It was April of 1968, so I was a sophomore in high school. I had the TV on that night and was watching when Bobby gave his last speech; he had just won the California primary and made his victory speech before about 2,000 supporters in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, ending with "On to Chicago and let's win there." It was just a few minutes after midnight, so if that was Pacific time, then that means I had the TV on at 1:00 a.m. Denver time, something I didn't typically do. I remember the shock I felt watching the live TV news feed of Robert Kennedy, lying on the ground, very obviously mortally wounded. Although his eyes were open and he was still alive, you knew he wasn't going to make it because of the large pool of blood surrounding his head.

Then it was just the next year, in the summer of 1969, that "Chappaquiddick" became, forever, a word added to the Kennedy lexicon, when 37-year-old Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island. Ted Kennedy managed to get himself out of the submerged vehicle, and later said that he "panicked" and fled the scene of the accident. It was hours before Kennedy reported the accident. Mary Jo's Kopeckne's body was discovered ten hours later inside the submerged car. Somehow whenever I connect the ideas of Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, I always think of it as a stupid young rich kid's stunt, perhaps because he was given a pass for killing Mary Jo as if it were just a stupid rich kid's stunt. However, his were the actions of a 37-year-old United States Senator, married and the father of three children. Kennedy was never charged for his actions that night.

Was it after Ted's disaster at Chappaquiddick that the idea of a "Kennedy curse" took hold in the American public's psyche? It seemed to take hold in the family about the time Robert was murdered when someone in the family was heard to say, "It was as if fate had turned against us. There was now a pattern that could not be ignored." Whether it was fate or hubris, bad luck or some awful combination of them all, the Kennedy family certainly seemed star-crossed: three dead older brothers (the oldest, Joseph Jr., dead in 1944 in a plane crash--rumors or more than rumors that he was on some secret war mission continue to this day); an older sister, also the victim of a plane crash, killed along with her married lover; another sister institutionalized for life after a botched lobotomy; his father, Joseph Sr., a man who spent a lifetime working to get one of his sons elected President, struck speechless with a stroke just as his son John attained that goal; Ted himself severely injured in a plane crash that killed the pilot and an aide. The list of family tragedies goes on and on, culminating, but not ending, when John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, and her sister died in 1999 in another plane, piloted and crashed by John Jr.

Much has been made in the press recently about certain events being a certain politician's Waterloo. [Touched will not name names.] The same could be said for Ted Kennedy and the bridge at Chappaquiddick: perhaps the American people forgave Ted Kennedy for Chappaquiddick, but they never forgot. He would never be President, the People would see to that. What he could be was one of the most powerful U.S. Senators in history for over four decades. One of his premier legislative goals for decades was to reform our "broken system" of health care.

When Ted Kennedy received his own grim diagnosis of cancer in May of 2008, Kennedy was no stranger to putting up a fight against the disease: at the age of 12, his son Edward lost a leg to bone cancer; his second son Patrick was 20 when he had a non-cancerous tumor removed from his spine; his only daughter Kara was 45 when she was diagnosed with "inoperable" lung cancer and given one year to live. Ted Kennedy met each diagnosis head on, arming himself with an arsenal of information, embracing experimental treatments and seeking third opinions and sometimes more. In speaking about their daughter Kara and her lung cancer, which today is in remission, Kara's mother and Ted Kennedy's first wife, Joan B. Kennedy, said, "He really saved her life. I am so grateful that he is my children's father, because he has always gotten them the best medical care" [emphasis mine].

"The best medical care"--in the world, Joan Kennedy might have added, which Ted Kennedy also obtained for himself during his last illness--the best medical care in the world, right here in the U.S. of A. Yet the question begs to be asked: under ObamaCare, would a 77-year-old obese alcoholic male diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer have received "the best" care? It's more likely that he would have been offered a hemlock bag to hang around his neck, with instructions for using it when the time was right. Instead, recipient of the world's best health care, he was able, after his diagnosis, to see another Christmas, another spring, and even another summer at his beloved family compound at Hyannisport, Mass. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out on his show today, Ted Kennedy was a man who embraced life. He wanted to live, and he lived with his illness as long as he was able. In doing so, he was probably doing what most people would also want for themselves. At least he had the choice.

One hopes that Kennedy's death will not be used by the Left to push some sentimentalized form of  "TeddyCare" onto the American public, the majority of which wants no part of Obama's health reform scheme. Hopefully, instead, Ted Kennedy’s death will help to emphasize that our elected “public servants” enjoy one of the best health insurance plans in the world. The American people have let it be known that they believe it is deeply wrong that these legislators are trying to force something much less comprehensive (and less life-affirming) than their own plan onto their constituents.


Labwriter said...

On hearing that moron What's-his-name Olberman say today that Obama is now the "last [Kennedy] brother," I almost threw up on my shoes. There ought to be a law.

Labwriter said...

Sorry, that was Chris Matthews, not Olberman. Since I don't watch either one (who does?), I don't know the difference.