Wednesday, August 26, 2009

So long, it's been good to know you!

My goodness, I’ll miss Ted Kennedy --- a guy whose life has been intertwined with mine from an unbridgeable distance that never seemed unbridgeable since his elder brother, John F., was elected president in 1960 when I was 14.

In that presidential campaign, as I recall it, many Republicans and more than a few Democrats argued that a Roman Catholic should never be elected president because if we did that power would shift from Washington, D.C., to Vatican City. Absurd, my parents said, and of course it was.

As the years passed, the Kennedys as a family, including Ted, have lived out better than most that line from Luke 12:48: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required ….”

That commitment to service, pundits say, can be tracked back to parents, Joe and Rose Kennedy, the matriarch whose faith of steel made the spiritual commitments of some popes seem wishy-washy by comparison. Not a bad example for parents today.

I started thinking about that two weeks ago upon the death of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, tireless worker for those with intellectual challenges, a woman who changed forever the way we think about, interact with and treat those once dismissed as “retarded.”

I know of no other family that has risen above quite so much adversity with quite so much strength and grace --- the untimely deaths of the older siblings, Joe Jr. and Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish; the assassinations for John F. and Robert; the untimely deaths of John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Carolyn, and more.

Then there was Ted’s persistence and ability to arise phoenix-like from the ashes of intensely personal difficulties played out in public --- his own follies (remember Chappaquiddick?), a troubled first marriage, too many pounds, too much strong drink at times, a tendency to carouse and finally brain cancer.

And that lion of all liberal causes, bless his heart --- my causes, too, although on a scale that by comparison is insignificant: Full inclusion for all, literally, like everyone, really; a conviction that badly-run big government, not big government per se, is where evil slips in; little patience with trickle-down and other theories promoted by the haves as they try to figure out a new way to screw the have-nots; less patience with those who would restrict rather than empower legislatively; and finally health-care reform, his dream that in a society obsessed with medical technology it is a right, not a privilege, to have access to it universally and affordably.

What a guy!

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