I had the TV news on during breakfast, as I tend to do, and it was all Teddy’s funeral, all the time, even on Fox News (or Faux Noise, or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days). I’ll admit that it was fascinating to watch the political elite, all in one place, talking to each other like they were normal people and their friends and neighbors. I watched with great curiosity as Hillary leaned far over G.W. for several minutes to chat with Laura about something that was, quite clearly, riotously funny. And God only knows what Joe Biden was saying to folks, but they all looked, well, like people look when someone like Joe Biden is talking to them, with that odd combination of amusement and annoyance.
But on to the man of the hour. Now, I generally do not wish harm to people with whom I disagree politically, at least those who aren’t actively trying to cause great harm (I’ll admit that I smiled when Saddam swung, but for standard political opponents, there is no comparison). And I think that, speaking in broad generalizations, this is a positive trait of conservatives. When Kennedy’s tumor was announced, when Bill Clinton needed heart surgery, conservative commentators that I heard didn’t speak ill, they usually said something positive, that they hoped for the best for these people. I can’t recall having heard similar empathy from the left for, for example, Reagan’s Alzheimer’s.
But, oh, Teddy Kennedy. You really emphasized so much, so very much of what is wrong in American politics, and particularly what is wrong with the modern, and perhaps, given the length of your tenure, the not so modern, left.
Today, Mr. Kennedy is hailed as a great humanitarian. Yet, his actions toward actual humans were all too inhumane. He claimed to be for the little guy, but he skated by with every advantage, from getting into and cheating in college, to reneging on his military service agreement, to literally getting away with killing a woman and possibly acting as an accomplice to rape, that was afforded by his obscenely powerful family. He is praised for being remorseful for his wrongs, yet, according to author Ed Klein (who speaks of this as if of a loveable quirk), one of his favorite topics to hear and tell jokes about was that fateful day at Chappaquiddick, when he abandoned a young woman to slowly drown.
I’m not celebrating his death; I don’t wish death on anyone unless it is necessary to save another, but I am glad that he is out of the senate. I wish that he had been out years ago, or that he had never gotten in. By all rights, he should not have. I hope for the best for the remaining Kennedys, but I hope that their stranglehold on American politics is at an end. I believe in forgiveness to one who asks for it and shows genuine contrition, but not in forgetting, not in turning a deliberately blind eye to something so obviously in front of one’s face. Not in allowing the money, glamour, and power of a family name to excuse lying, cheating, abuse, and worse. (“If his name was Edward Moore, with his qualifications . . .[his] candidacy would be a joke“). I hope that, in his rare and underappreciated private life, Mr. Kennedy did find the time to seek forgiveness for his wrongs, but sincerely, not through “public service” that gave him almost unlimited power and prestige. I hope that even he had the opportunity to make his peace with God, and that there is a place for all of us to make amends to those we harmed in this life. But I don’t think that we should forget, as we say good-bye, that this man was no hero.