Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The best and the worst we contain

Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy has died, I'm sure you're all aware of that. Every news site on the internet is reporting this, as are the TV news programs. Yahoo's piece didn't mention Chappaquiddick, at all. CNN's piece only made a vague reference to it.

Is it because we hesitate to speak ill of the dead? I don't think that should be the case, particularly in this instance.

Ted Kennedy lived a life of long public service. He was a champion of liberal causes, a complicated man, from a notoriously complicated family with a tragic history.

Chappaquiddick cost him his shot at the presidency, but then, it should have. Although I have always believed that Ted Kennedy did try to save Mary Jo Kopechne, I don't think he was ever honest about why she was in his car in the first place. Also, when he failed to save her, he did try to run away, he did try to cover it up. As a young woman's body began to decay underneath that water, he did not think of her family, and their grief. He did not think of the dignity her body deserved. He thought of no one but himself, and his ambitions.

He tried to save his political career, and he lied. He didn't kill her purposefully, but his act of cowardice would forever taint him in a way the accident never could have, had he stepped forward, and done the right thing willingly.

What a career he had. He helped many people, he served in the senate. He didn't turn away from public service even knowing that he had damned himself to being the Kennedy who would be the "also ran" forever.

In other words, he acted with cowardice and in a grasping manner, then he proceeded to atone over the course of many decades.

We don't need to cover up Chappaquiddick today, or feel that to mention it is a disservice to a man who proved himself capable of great things in the long run.

He was very human. He was very flawed. He earned his forgiveness through thought and deed. Consider the man in full, and truly recognize him for the good he did. When contrasted with a terrible moment of cowardice, what is the greater measure?

The best he contained, not the worst. We all have the worst in us. It's all right to speak of Ted Kennedy's worst, today. He did a terrible thing, and lost his shot. His life of public service was about just that. Long after he understood that his misdeed would forever keep him from the highest office in the land, he continued.

The Kennedy family has a strange, awesome, and in some ways, terrible history and legacy.

In the final analysis, Ted Kennedy was admirable, and he did atone. As we would all hope to, for whatever wrongs we have perpetrated.

Rest in peace, and thank you for the good you did.


PhilipH said...

Ted Kennedy was a decent chap. OK, there were some hiccups along the way but who doesn't suffer from the slings and arrows etc., in this life? Very few I'd say.

The Kennedy's seemed cursed by fate in many ways. JFK was the first and most famous of all.

Rest in Peace kind Sir.

Jo said...

Seeeee? I told you we had the same brain. Your post is almost identical to mine today. *heh*

And I agree with Philip. We are all human. In the final analysis, Ted Kennedy was probably the greatest of the Kennedy brothers.

Land of shimp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Land of shimp said...

I've been having trouble with the oddest typos, I must be very distracted. That one was strange enough that I'm going to delete what I wrote, and repaste my comment here with the correction.

Sorry about that!

I really do agree, Philip, and I think that the hiccups were eventually what proved how sincere he was in his successful efforts to help. He reached a certain level, and had no more power to gain because of his past, but he continued.

Years ago, when my son was little, we were walking down an apartment building hallway together and it was early morning, the newspapers had just been delivered, and there on the front page was the news of JFK Jr.'s death.

I said aloud, "My God, that family is truly cursed." For whatever reason it stuck in my son's mind, and on the tenth anniversary of JFK Jr.'s death, my son mentioned remembering that.

"You sounded so serious! I really thought you believed in curses."

And I told him that I wasn't sure if I did, or didn't. Normally I do not believe in such things at all, until the Kennedys come up. Then, I start to wonder.

Jo, we really, really were on the same wavelength, my goodness.

I think Ted Kennedy did one tremendously weak, horrific thing...but it did not define him, and that was for the greater good. I think he was a great force, and he dedicated his life to public service.

The Kennedys were always a mix of the great and the terrible. Their greatness was easy to see, and the terrible tended to rear its head in how they all treated the women in their lives.

You know, I'm not sure I'd term him the greatest of the Kennedys. I think he was the only one truly given enough time to prove what he had within him, in full. To have the most impact.

He doesn't truly have a peer in his family, but I'm not sure it was in terms of greatness, just rather that he was the only one whose life was not cut tragically short.

I do think that overall, he was a great man. It's so tempting to canonize someone upon their death, but I find Ted Kennedy to be more impressive, because he had such faults to overcome -- and then that's exactly what he set about doing, and succeeded.

Pauline said...

"I think Ted Kennedy did one tremendously weak, horrific thing...but it did not define him."

That is something we must remember when we judge - that what defines us is far more than just one instance in our lives, no matter how horrible.