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.