Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Ted Kennedy Dead At The Aged Of 77
When I was about six years old I didn't know much about politics. I did know that my family, good Catholics all, had been excited that a Catholic had held the highest office in our country. My father, a DC cop, had even been part of John F. Kennedy's funeral procession. So even at that very young age I knew about the Kennedy's.
The media loved the Kennedy's and you would often see them on TV. It seemed that his brother Robert would follow in his brother's footsteps and become our President one day.
My best friend, Jeanette Carmichael, and I did what little girls do. We talked about the day that one day we would be married and the kind of life we would have. Jeanette and I both longed to get married to a famous rich man and live the life we saw movie stars live. Many young girls now have the same dream of marrying rappers or football players.
I told Jeanette that maybe I would marry Ted Kennedy. He was rich. He was handsome and one day I would live in the White House. The same White House that was once part of my father's beat. I think Jeanette and I only had three fights in the entire time that we knew each other and this sparked one of them. It was a horrible fight with hair pulling and name calling because Jeanette had the same dream of marrying Ted Kennedy. We did make up but I can still remember that fight all these years later.
I can still remember learning about Chappaquiddick just a few years later. My dad, ever the cop, was patiently explaining the whole incident, the inconsistencies of Kennedy's story, and about what he theorized happened. We were all supposed to be asleep but I could hear my father talking about it as I lay there in the dark. When I imagined Mary Jo Kopechne trapped in the vehicle submerged in the dark waters I could feel my chest tighten and I remember crying. Looking back I can say that this is one of the reasons that even today when I drive over a big suspension bridge I a real fear seizes up inside me and I imagine that my car might get hit and I will fall into the murky waters below.
The incident also changed my mind about Ted Kennedy forever. I no longer admired him with that child like innocence that I'd had. At age nine I was already becoming jaded. I think that the fact that he was the first hero that I saw topple affected me greatly in my opinion of him. He plead guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury, and received a suspended sentence. My Dad often said, "If this had been a poor man, a black man, the sentence would have been much much harder. I still believe that this is true.
When I was a young woman growing up in DC the stories of his womanizing and drinking were epic. So when I saw him at a crowded political event one time I steered clear of of the man I had thought I would marry when I was a child. I didn't rush over and introduce myself to this senator who still had a rock star status. I saw him as a shining example of how there were actually two kinds of justice in this country, one for the rich and one for the poor. He had become a caricature of an aging playboy still caught up in a Peter Pan world that his wealth allowed him to enjoy.
People seem forgiving of that long ago incident. They praise him for all that he has done but I still find there to be a bit of hypocrisy. He pushed for the desegregation of public schools while making sure that his children went to private whites only schools. At least Carter sent his daughter Amy to DC public schools. I also found it interesting that people crucified Bush for No Child Left Behind but it seems his part in this same legislation is celebrated. He wanted wind towers but not placed near his home where they would obscure the view. What about others who might say Not In My Backyard? Will they have the same pull?
Now a new level of hypocrisy. When Romney was in charge of Massachusetts he wanted to make sure that his replacement would be elected in a special election and not appointed as Massachusettes law had allowed. Then with his death near he asked Gov. Deval Patrick change this law. Essentially making allowing the Governor to appoint his replacement.
Ted Kennedy was the youngest child of the Kennedy clan. His family suffered many tragedies with the brutal murders of two of the brothers and another brother died in a tragic accident.
He attended Harvard in 1951, playing on the freshman football team before he was caught cheating by having a friend take his Spanish language exam.
Kennedy was expelled and entered the Army, where he served in Paris during the Korean War. and after almost two years was re-admitted to Harvard for demonstrating good behavior.
He went on to get a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School and served as an assistant D.A in Suffolk County, Mass. He married Virginia Joan Bennett, who was introduced to him by his sister Jean. They had three children, the youngest was Patrick, who also would enter public office.
Kennedy credited his second wife Victoria Anne Reggie with turning him around and redirecting him back to his political career. This is perhaps true. I don't believe that another person can cure you because the change has to come from within and it seems that his second wife was very committed to him. So in that realm he may indeed be a changed man.
Kennedy was too ill to attend his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver's funeral or to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom bestowed upon him by President Obama, both in in August 2009.
This morning Ted Kennedy died in his home in Hyannis Port. The Republicans have lost their boogie man, the Democrats have lost their liberal lion, the Kennedys have lost their patriarch, and we have lost a senator who lived his life in the hot spot light of fame that amplified his faults and human frailties. I think the little girl in me is still saddened that the man I once thought I would marry when I grew up never really became the man I thought he would become.