Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Remembering the dead

When someone passes on, most of us try to remember the good things they did and to resist the temptation to focus on their mistakes and the less-than-wonderful things they did. All but the most despicable persons deserve a little courtesy and deference whey they die.

Most people are neither gods nor devils, but it is common for both those who admired the departed and those who didn’t to indulge in rhetorical excess that paints an inaccurate picture of the person.

This phenomenon is evident following the passing of Massachusetts Senator Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy, who died last week of brain cancer at the age of 77, and most of the eulogies canonize Mr. Kennedy, placing him on a level that few humans actually deserve. Contrary to the belief of a fair portion of the liberal left, Ted Kennedy was not a god.

But the purpose here is neither to denigrate Mr. Kennedy nor to praise him, just to look at how some have reacted to his death.
Ted Kennedy epitomized American liberalism, and he had a collection of good and bad deeds on his rap sheet, some of them quite notable. His supporters should celebrate his devotion to liberal ideals, and his detractors should appreciate his loyalty to his beliefs. He was neither the Savior nor Satan, and to say much more than that, either pro or con, would be to wander into a rhetorical wonderland.

Except, that is, for one event in his life which cannot be ignored: his suspicious involvement in the tragic death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
Someone named Melissa Lafsky addressed this issue on the Huffington Post Web site. Even though she dares to challenge the accepted protocol by addressing what must be the darkest of Mr. Kennedy’s deeds, Ms. Lafsky turns out to be a Kennedy admirer.

“But in all the florid or scalpel-sharp prose,” she wrote, “there's one constant: Peeking out from the center of the story is the matter of his playing a major part in the death of a 28-year-old woman.”

“Mary Jo wasn't a right-wing talking point or a negative campaign slogan,” she wrote. “She was a dedicated civil rights activist and political talent with a bright future – granted, whenever someone dies young, people sermonize about how he had a "bright future" ahead of him – but she actually did. She wasn't afraid to defy convention … or create her own career path based on her talents …. Then she got in a car driven by a 36-year-old senator with an alcohol problem and a cauldron full of demons, and wound up a controversial footnote in a dynasty.”
She continued,

“We don't know how much Kennedy was affected by her death, or what she'd have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history. What we don't know, as always, could fill a Metrodome. Still, ignorance doesn't preclude a right to wonder. So it doesn't automatically make someone … a Limbaugh-loving, aerial-wolf-hunting NRA troll for asking what Mary Jo Kopechne would have had to say about Ted's death, and what she'd have thought of the life and career that are being (rightfully) heralded. Who knows – maybe she'd feel it was worth it.”

Read that last sentence again: “Who knows – maybe she'd feel it was worth it.”

Quite apart from how one may feel about Mr. Kennedy, that is an abysmally stupid concept.

To even contemplate – let alone express – how someone who would likely still be alive today (had she the good fortune to escape the notice of Ted Kennedy that night) might feel about the now-dead senator’s career is preposterous and disgraceful. And to then suggest that she might even think that dying for the cause was appropriate, or a good thing, or as Ms. Lafsky put it, “worth it,” well, that sentiment is so grossly contemptible and cold-blooded that it’s difficult to find printable words to adequately describe it.

It should shock every decent American that people allow themselves to think like that. Or maybe she can’t control it. Ms. Lafsky’s slams at Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin – neither of whom expressed that horrid thought – tell us that she is a liberal, and apparently one who lives way out on the fringes, where crazy ideas like this thrive.

Ted Kennedy worked for health care reform, and drafted America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, a plan that will produce rationing and denial-of-service like health care systems in Europe and Canada. This is the plan that Democrats think the country needs. Republicans, and a majority of the American people, disagree.

Another crazy idea would be to pass this monstrosity “for Teddy.” The people in Congress were sent there to represent the citizens who elected them, not to dictate to them. They represent all of the people, not just the ones who agree with them. The imperious behavior of some of them reflects that they have forgotten that.

With the country and the Congress so sharply divided on the issue, it would make a mockery of the ideal of good government to shove this through for any reason, especially as a memorial to Ted Kennedy.

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