Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Memorium--Edward M. Kennedy

I became a Democrat in November of 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th president of the United States. I was 14 years old and just on the cusp of forming my own moral and political consciousness. President Kennedy's assassination, three years later, shattered whatever illusions I had about the nobility of politics in America. It cauterized my naivete as to the superiority of America's ideals and ushered in a brief but devastating era of the worst form of anarchy--ballot by bullet. It was that mind-numbing insanity that brought down another of my heroes, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in 1968. What idealism about America I had left at that point, bled to death in that same moment.

Today is the first day in my life as a socially sentient being that there is not a Kennedy brother walking the earth--no voice, unabashedly liberal, yet willing to speak with, to, and for those of a very different ideology. Yet, I cannot say that Ted Kennedy was my idol; a hero, yes, but not my ideal. Like every tragic hero whose story has ever been written, he was noble, yet flawed. He drank too much, womanized far too often, and indulged his enormous appetites more than I could fathom. Yet, his voice was raised, in defense of those less fortunate, more loudly and clearly than I could ever muster. He understood his wealth and how to enjoy it to the fullest. But he never forgot that "there, but for the grace of God, go I". For that, I will always admire the man and seek to emulate him.


Detroit Dan said...

Very well spoken, Lewis. You not only captured my sentiments, but extended them and made sense of them.

I too have been feeling somewhat conflicted with regard to Teddy Kennedy. I appreciate his liberalism and concern for those not as fortunate as he, but cannot admire his sometimes reckless and spoiled behavior.

In the final analysis, I feel that we all make mistakes and I can forgive one who makes serious mistakes such as those committed by Edward Kennedy. What is more important is that he grew morally as he matured. He didn't have enormous obstacles to overcome, aside from the not inconsiderable family tragedies, but he did learn from his mistakes as well as from his successes, and ended up going in the right direction for the betterment of his fellow men and women...

legacyguy said...

My dear friend, Dan. Thanks, first of all, for taking the time to read my post; second, thanks for writing such a glowing review. While Edward, like all the men in his family (starting with his father), seemed to have had size XXX libidos, the more I learn about Teddy, the more impressed I am with the extraordinary lengths to which he went to shower his constituents with love and true caring. It may well be decades before the American political scene sees his like again.

Detroit Dan said...

I just read a bit about Ted Kennedy's father, Joseph, in Wikipedia. I hadn't realized what a character he was.

The story seems quintessentially American. All of Kennedy's grandparents emigrated to Massachusetts in the 1840s to escape the Irish famine. Within 3 generations, the family had ascended to the apex of American society, overcoming the inferior position of the Irish in America in their early years. Joseph Sr. became fabulously powerful and wealthy. He seemed to have a real talent for business and politics.

But Joe Sr. got carried away with his concept of America, and made some tragic missteps, including:

- Anti-semitism
- Supported appeasement of Hitler
- Supported Joseph McCarthy

On a more personal level, he gave permission for one of his daughters to be lobotomized at the age 23. That turned out to be a tragic mistake.

On the plus side, he was an active opponent of Father Coughlin, an Irish-Canadian priest in Detroit, who became perhaps the most prominent Roman Catholic spokesman on political and financial issues in the 1930s, with a radio audience that reached millions every week. A strong supporter of Roosevelt in 1932, Coughlin broke with the president in 1934 and became a bitter opponent in his weekly, anti-communist, anti-Federal Reserve and isolationist radio talks. Kennedy battled Coughlin, in support of Roosevelt, through the '30s and early '40s.