August 26, 2009

A Champion is Gone

My mother was a wreck when Jackie Onassis died. A snotty, teary ball of mess during the news broadcasts. Our house was littered with every possible magazine about her life and her death. Then when her son died five years later it all happened again. She was just fascinated with the Kennedy family- like all women of her generation. That family really was the closest thing America had to royalty and my mother ate it up.

The Kennedy family really is fantastical. Rosemary was lobotomized and made incontinent, mysterious and tragic deaths abound, all the men were known philanderers, the family made its initial fortune illegally back in prohibition, one of them married THE Terminator and they all have ginormous teeth. But man, was that family beloved by America. The fact that John Jr. was so darn good looking didn't hurt my passing obsession. He was so dreamy even his terrible bouffant hair couldn't take away from the good looking-ness. You could say my mother's fascination has rubbed off on me.

But where she's obsessed with the surface, I am much more intrigued by what made this family interesting and influential to me. The Kennedy family is fucking rich and powerful but they are, Mrs. Terminator and a few others aside, Democrats. The political agenda of the Kennedys consisted and still consists of social and economic reform that favors the little guy. They helped repeal literacy tests and poll taxes; founded the Peace Corp and Special Olympics, not to mention other service driven groups; spearheaded the civil rights movement in Congress; wrote the Americans With Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave Act, and No Child Left Behind. (No matter how messed up NCLB is in practice, they meant well. The road to hell after all...) These are all just a taste of what the Kennedy family has done for America. They could've sat around on their privileged asses doing drugs and being Irish all day, okay they kind of did that too, but they did more with themselves. And I have deep respect for that in spite of the despicable things they did in their private lives. The good they've done far, far outweighs the bad.

And that brings me to the point. Ted Kennedy. My mother's boyfriend HATES, well HATED, Ted Kennedy. Bob works with many politicians and I asked him if he had particular disdain for anyone and his answer was only Ted Kennedy. In fact, I think he may have mentioned wanting to punch that man in the face. I'm sure Bob had a professional reason but mostly I'm convinced his feelings are based in the crap Kennedy pulled in his personal life. I'm not denying that it's reprehensible to let a woman drown in your car after you drunkenly drive it into a river. Or that he was probably cheating on his wife with her. Or other stuff. But I'd like to think that Bob can't deny the fact that that same douchebag did some amazing things for the American people. For all his faults he was a brilliant and incredibly effective politician. Many of the life changing policies I previously mentioned he wrote, backed up or implemented. That's not an easy feat. There probably won't be such an influential, powerful champion of the forgotten Americans like Ted Kennedy again. He will be missed. And may that sonofabitch rest in peace.

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