Thursday, August 27, 2009

My thoughts on Senator Edward Kennedy

Immediately after his death, opinions of Senator Kennedy came from all directions. Some lionized him, some demonized him, some pointed out his strengths, others his weakness, and some addressed both. Ted Kennedy was a man for whom very few in America felt indifferent. It's hard to admit that as I watch the passing of Ted Kennedy, I am struck with the feeling that something is gone. Much like the death of Ronald Reagan, I am keenly aware that another member of the "Old Guard" has passed on. Do not mistake me. I make no comparisons between these men and I would choose Reagan everyday of the week and twice on Sunday over Kennedy. Ironically, Ted Kennedy is probably the US Senator I liked the least, and yet the only one to ever mention my name in an official proceeding thanking me for my efforts on a piece of legislation. So how do I feel about Ted Kennedy? I used to vehemently dislike him until I met him, and my dislike turned to pity.

That's correct, pity. I only knew of Senator Kennedy toward the end of his life. Working as a staffer in the Senate I would see him from time to time when our bosses spoke or walking the halls. And it was in the halls of the Senate where I came to feel real pity for him. Senator Kennedy was walking in the tunnels of the Senate unassisted. He was in severe pain and every step he took looked like a labor. All his weight was resting on a banister as he painfully tried to maneuver up a slight incline that I walked over all the time. I said hello to him and said hello back in a gutteral grunt that was clearly an acknowledgment of both my presence and his extreme pain.

It was at this moment that I had a vision of several literary characters. Jacob Marely, Macbeth, and Frankenstein. That day in the hall I finally understood Dicken's tragic character. Kennedy could barely walk and his broken body almost visibly carried the chains of a lifetime of bad decisions. Whatever Kennedy's intent was in life, he undid much of his work through a series of poor decisions and short cited judgments. He could never escape the shadow of Chappaquiddick and frankly nor should he have. He ended the life of someone's child through negligence and showed cowardice in the face of his actions hiding behind his substantial family name to escape accountability.

Kennedy also reminded me of Macbeth. The man who became King of Camelot due to the untimely deaths of his brothers. The King who would bear a fruitless crown. Some will challenge this claim and say that Kennedy created many great things, but like Macbeth, Kennedy was often blinded by his own quest for more and destroyed the lives and careers of other people through his own self righteousness. I can see the words "Is this a dagger before me?" coming from his lips as he looked back over his years seeing a long series bad, self centered decisions which brought him to the tip of Macduff's sword.

Finally Ted Kennedy and his entire family remind me of the Frankenstein monster. A tragic and un-natural creation, but in this instance it was not a doctor who created a monster, but the American press. It was the American press who glamorized the Kennedys, it was the press who ignored their faults, crimes and indiscretions and helped keep them in the center of our psyche for almost 60 years. It was the press who created greatness out of ink and whole cloth--not so unlike the ascension of Barack Obama. So why should anyone be surprised that the media would lionize their greatest creation and ignore his faults?

Senator Kennedy's passing and the end of Camelot should be the clarion call for an end to dynastic political families and clear evidence why we don't have royalty. Looking back over the years of Camelot, I have no idea what deal Joe Kennedy made with the devil, but his children, grandchildren and countless others have paid a steep price for glory. I don't know about you, but I would not want to be Kennedy for all the money in the Kingdom.

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