Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Truly the End of an Era

I was in Dublin in November of 1994. Some of us were sitting at the bar in our hotel when a bunch of very well dressed people came into the lobby surrounded by law enforcement. We were curious, so one of us asked the bartender what was going on. He told us the government had just fallen. And then we finally looked up at the TV screens around us. A few of them were turned to a soccer (football) game, but the rest were turned to a news channel. So we got to talking with the bartender, and he laid it on the line. He said, basically, that the problem with Americans is that when it comes to politics most citizens are completely apathetic. The Irish, however, eat, drink, and breathe politics. Even the most lowly and poor citizen with no access to the wireless world knows exactly what's going on at any given time.

And this is one of the reasons that back in the very early part of the 20th century the Irish in America bludgeoned their way into government.

Maybe bludgeoned is a poor choice of words. No wait, it's precisely a good choice of words, because the Irish were not averse to using less than honorable means to their ends. In the beginning it meant physical force. And then it meant money.

Joe Kennedy Sr. made a lot of money. Regardless of the fact that he was so fortunate financially, he dealt with anti-Irish bias regularly. But like any "good" Catholic man, he knocked up his wife a bazillion times and had 9 kids. And by the grace of God, 4 were boys. So he set about making sure, by any means possible, that his son would become President of the United States.

Oh no, not that son. Joe Jr. And then Joe Jr. died in a plane crash in WWII. But he had emergency backup sons. So attention and money and power turned to Jack. And it worked. An Irish American man became president. A little over 60 years prior there had been signs posted in shop windows saying, "Help Wanted- Irish Need Not Apply." But now here he was, a Catholic boy with even bigger financial reserves than his libido. And he was the most powerful man in the world. And then in November of 1963 some fucktard gunned him down. BUT. There were still 2 more emergency backup sons.

So son number 3 went for it. And Bobby, who had been, regardless of questionable behavior regarding the opposite sex, probably the best example of humanity that Joe Sr. produced in his sons, was also gunned down in 1968. And oh Dear God, that left Teddy.

Everyone has a Teddy in their family. I don't care who you are. If you have more than 2 kids you get the baby of the family. And the baby ends up with certain issues. If you're the youngest SON, well goodness knows... So everyone turned to the baby boy of the family who had grown up protected and coddled the way youngest boys can be. And wouldn't you know it? He fucked up. It was a colossal fuckup. SO colossal that the incident became synonymous with politicians' fuckups to this day. At age 37, old enough to know better, he let a woman die. Unfortunately he had no brothers left to fall back on for help. So he had to dig himself out of the mess himself. And he did.

Teddy Kennedy went from being a joke to being one of the most respected senators in the history of this country. 47 years. FORTY SEVEN YEARS the people of Mass. kept him in office. He pushed the Civil Rights Act into law. He pushed the Voting Rights Act into law. The Americans with Disabilities Act. The Family and Medical Leave Act.

There were still jokes made about his obvious love of alcohol and his rather amusing accent. But they came fewer and farther between. Because this man had realized he needed to do a job. And he got it done.

Looking back, he was the lucky one for more reasons than having had the chance to die of natural causes at a somewhat elderly age. He got to spend decades affecting change and serving the public to the best of his ability. If he had been elected president? What, 8 years at the most? Followed by the public speaking circuit? Oh I'm sure he would have done something good. Foundations and charities etc. But almost 50 years of pushing the government to do what was right instead of what was easy is an awesome legacy to have.

So we've lost a prime example of the Irish passion for politics and government. And what it can lead to in the best and worst of circumstances. Safe Journey, Teddy.
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again.

1 comment:

Dagny said...

fantastic post.

RIP Ted.