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A couple of notes on Senator Kennedy

Yesterday morning I awoke to the news that Senator Kennedy had died. While this was not entirely unexpected, I felt stunned yet rather emotionless about it for perhaps the first fifteen minutes that I was aware of it. Then I found myself moved by the news much more than I might have expected and spent much of the next hour weeping about it as I listened to coverage of it on NPR. Truly one of the Great Leaders of this country and a type of Senator that we will likely never see again, his legacy impacts in a good way nearly every American, whether they realize it or not. His fundamental belief that government could be and should be the mechanism to mitigate the gross inequities between the have and have-nots and to stand for justice for the most powerless of our people led to an unparalleled legislative record that has shaped and will shape for ages to come our nation's approach to civil rights, education, public service, immigration, and so very many other things. What makes me cry again as I write this is that he did not live long enough to see the advent of universal health insurance coverage, which would have been his final triumph. Because cancer took Kennedy too soon and because America is largely under the sway of reactionary cowards and evil-minded fuckwits, we may not ever see that dream realized. Now the tears clear, burned away by rage.

I have two memories to recount:

1) When I was about 9 years old, I got to glimpse Ted Kennedy in person at a campaign event. He was challenging President Carter for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1980. His campaign did not succeed, of course, and it may have badly wounded the party going into  an election where President Carter was already having enough problems. Over the years, I sometimes wonder if Kennedy's opposition to Carter may have been the fatal blow and may have helped usher in the  Reagan Age, the consequences of which we still fight to this day. What I mainly remember about those days, however, was my Grandma expressing strong disapproval of Kennedy's decision to run for President.  "If Kennedy gets in, they'll shoot him," she was sure. It seems so long ago now (and it is) but at the time it had only been a little more than a decade since Bobby's assassination. Grandma equated a Kennedy being President or running for President with assassination, and she didn't think Teddy should be risking it.

2) In 1994, Gingrich and his vile coterie of cockroaches managed to dupe the country with their moronic Contract with America and seize control of Congress in the mid-term election. Kennedy himself was considered (by some people, who were living in a right-wing fantasy land) vulnerable to defeat in his re-election bid. He was opposed by Mitt Romney (you know, that living douchebag in human guise who tried to run for Prez last year and couldn't even beat McCain), whose main campaign promise was to fuck over single mothers and children (while also opposing the right of those same women to not have the damned kids in the first place). Kennedy was advised by some people that he might do well to NOT oppose Romney's anti-feeding-children position. Kennedy instead decided that he wasn't going to get re-elected by taking food out of the mouths of the country's poorest people. He stood against Romney's assholish position with the same fervor with which he always confronted injustice.  I remember talking to my Mom on the phone during those days. She is, for the most part, a right-wing fanatic and was practically drooling and cackling with delight that the great Kennedy was finally going down in that election, that he would finally be defeated by Mitt Romney. Yeah, right! I said. Yeah, fucking right, Mom! Dream on! Fucking Romney is going to defeat Kennedy!  What next? Bob Dole gets elected President?  [paroxysms of laughter] Give me a fucking break, I said. Kennedy, I said, will be the senior Senator from Massachusetts until the day he dies.  Turns out I was right.