Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Much Was Taken.....Much Abides
It was a piece of a poem he quoted in his famed 1980 "Dream Shall Never Die" Democratic Convention speech, which the Lion of the Senate prefaced:
"And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special meaning for me now:
'I am a part of all that I have met
To [Tho] much is taken, much abides
That which we are, we are --
One equal temper of heroic hearts
Strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield'
For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end."
With the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy comes the inevitable repeat calls about "The End of Camelot." We'd heard that the first time, with the news of his brother John's assassination 46 years ago, followed just five years later with the anguish of brother Bobby's murder.
Now, like the famous remark when Abraham Lincoln succumbed to death, Teddy "belongs to the ages" with his brothers.
Checkered would be a generous description of this Kennedy's life. There's absolutely no questioning his impact on us emotionally, as well as the influence he had in the Senate, in a long career dedicated to improving the plight of the poor, the disenfranchised, the sick.
One of the most lucid insights comes from MSNBC's Mike Celizic, who writes:
"With Sen. Edward Kennedy’s death comes not only the end of a political dynasty, but also of one of the most enduring — and cherished — American myths. Camelot is no more.
The myth was so powerful that it transcended generations. Unlike many allusions to the 1960s, it needs no explanation to those who don’t remember that time.
John F. Kennedy, the eldest brother, was King Arthur, and wife Jackie his Guinevere. Bobby, the second brother, was Lancelot, defender of the powerless and, it is said, secretly in love with the queen.
And then there was the youngest of them all: Teddy, in whom the best and the worst of everything Kennedy seemed to come together.
It was he who would ultimately become this Camelot’s Galahad. Though far from perfect and nowhere near a man of great virtue, Edward M. Kennedy was the knight who ultimately set for himself a quest.
Its object was no less momentous than the Holy Grail itself: universal health care."
Quite understandably, there is a horde of dragons blocking access to the grail. This nation's "compassionate conservatives" in Congress, on the air waves, and at town hall meetings (the hysterical, screaming yahoos in the audience) all would rather shill for the insatiable parasites that control the American Medical-Industrial Complex.
And who better to delude & inspire the hordes than radio's Oxycontin Beast Rush Limbaugh? Today this revolting garbage bag patted himself for predicting the obvious incoming calls to have "Ted Kennedy Memorial" tacked onto the national health care bill's title. He makes these kinds of cracks into the ear of a dying man and ridicules another, actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease.
The truly shocking and disgusting thing is our country's multitude of knuckleheads subscribing to this bloated psychopath's ravings.
Now here's my prediction: When it comes time for Limbaugh's hate-encrusted carcass to expire, his generous lobby pals at AHIP (American Health Insurance Plans) will be certain to construct a memorial of their own -- a elephantine "Rush" monument, right out in front of their Congressman Purchasing Outlet at the Pennsylvania Avenue HQ.
Celezic continues with the Kennedy, and Teddy, saga:
"This is a family that Aeschylus and Sophocles and Homer would have written about, a family that Norse poets would have immortalized in sagas, a family that medieval troubadours would have sung about, a family that Shakespeare would have devoted a trilogy to, a family that America transformed into a vision of its ideal self.
Teddy was the kid brother of that family, the youngest kid who was faced with the Everest of expectations established by his three older brothers.
Joseph Jr. had died heroically as a pilot defending London against the Nazi blitz. Jack, the second-oldest, became the embodiment of the Camelot myth that would follow the family to the present. Bobby, the third brother, was the brilliant orator and idealist who was on his way to the White House in 1968 when he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet.
It was a lot to live up to. It was both a curse and a blessing that Teddy alone among the brothers lived out his natural life. It was a curse because the reality of his personal life became public at Chappaquiddick, when Mary Jo Kopechne, a young campaign worker, died, and the famous senator neglected for nine hours to tell anyone about it."
This, above anything else, is the most vile and reprehensible and, yes, criminal part of the story. Some critics have likened him to an O.J. Simpson of politics, despite the infinitely more heinous nature of the Simpson Crime. There's little avoiding the fact that Ted Kennedy used his political clout, as Simpson did with his celebrity, to "get away with it."
And he shouldn't have.
But, he did.
"There was more. After his unsuccessful challenge to incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Ted Kennedy outraged his Catholic base by divorcing his wife, Joan.
Much of the 1980s seemed to be a blur of excess, of public drunkenness and lechery. In a Greek tragedy, that would have been the last act: a great man brought down by his own excesses, due to the original sin of hubris.
But life doesn’t always imitate art. In the 1990s, Ted Kennedy met his second wife, Vicki, and finally became what the Kennedy myth had always held him and his brothers to be.
His redemption began with a very public confession of his own sins. In a remarkable 1991 speech at Harvard, the senior senator from Massachusetts did something that we were not accustomed to seeing our political heroes do: He admitted to being less than what he seemed.
'I recognize my own shortcomings, the faults and the conduct of my private life,' he said in the distinctive Kennedy accent. 'I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them.'
In an interview with NBC News the following year, he explained that speech, saying, 'I owed them some explanation, or at least the recognition that I understood.'
That would be what ultimately set Ted Kennedy apart, and what transformed him into a man who would be eulogized as one of the greatest senators in American history. Unlike so many others, Ted Kennedy proved by his actions that he really did understand.
His legislative resume is a towering testament to his ideals. And in those ideals, he was always consistent. His brother Bobby had swung from the right to the left of the political scale, and Jack had been a centrist and a political pragmatist. But Ted was consistent for four decades in his defense of the least of us, in his belief in the common man and woman."
One of the greatest senators? Certainly after Chappaquiddick he would labor to redeem himself, but his tireless work for the underprivilaged and downtrodden began years before that.
In his very first Senate speech in 1964, he spoke out in support of the Civil Rights Act. Kennedy led the charge in anti-discrimination legislation and championed Head Start, a program that fought childhood hunger and illiteracy. When the Pres. Ronald Reagan (the right-wing's bogus "champion of freedom") refused to back sanctions that ultimately ended the horror of South Africa's Apartheid, it was Kennedy -- not St. Ronald -- that lead the way to freedom.
It was Kennedy who helped pass the Americans With Disabilities Act, as well as Medicare & Medicaid laws.
“We must begin to move now to establish a comprehensive national health insurance program," he announced 40 years ago, "capable of bringing the same amount and high quality of health care to every man, woman, and child in the United States.”
This would henceforth be, he vowed, "the cause of his life."
Laudable, too, was Kennedy standing brave and wise with 20 other Democratic senators voting no on the insidious 2002 Iraq War Authorization. He called it a "political product" and a fraud "made up in Texas."
Political product it surely was, manufactured by the most grotesque scam artist that ever sat in the White House.
"The life and death issue of war and peace is too important to be left to politics," Kennedy warned just six months before Bush & Cheney launched their reign of war crimes. "And I disagree with those who suggest that this fateful issue cannot or should not be contested vigorously, publicly, and all across America. When it is the people's sons and daughters who will risk and even lose their lives, then the people should hear and be heard, speak and be listened to."
I'm sure the thousands and thousands of Americans that watched their loved ones be maimed and slaughtered thanks to the Bush Big Lie really wish that the powers that be had listened to Kennedy.
The other of Teddy's most powerful speeches was of course the eulogy he delivered for Bobby. Pres. Obama, with his gift of oratory, will not disappoint us when he eulogizes the Senator at his funeral on Saturday. But it would be hard to match the poignancy of the words spoken by a grieving brother 41 years ago.
May this family, The Kennedys, all the children who grew up with a man who was much more than "Uncle Ted," but a surrogate father to all his orphaned neices & nephews -- be comforted in yet another wave of unbearable grief.
A passage from scripture:
They shall hunger no more --
neither shall they thirst
For the lamb which sitteth in
the midst of the Throne
Shall lead them into
living fountains of waters
And God shall wipe away
all tears from our eyes