America’s royal family has lost another; Senator Edward Kennedy died last night. I’m supposed to be sad about this, aren’t I? I’m supposed to reflect on all the good things Kennedy did throughout his life, how he survived longer than his brothers, did so many good things for our country, and eventually became the patriarch of the Kennedy family? I just can’t do it.
I feel bad for his grieving family—his children, his wife, his many nieces and nephews—but I’ll admit that I don’t feel a great sense of loss or sadness over his passing. While the Kennedys may be our royalty, I’ve never been all that fond of their behavior, especially when some of them have acted with a sense of entitlement in situations where most people would admit they’ve done something wrong. I think of the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, Ted’s behavior (silence, actually) during the Clarence Thomas hearings, and of course, Chappaquiddick.
I was an adult before I understood the circumstances around Chappaquiddick. Until then it had been more of a punch line than anything else. I was an infant when the accident occurred, but I remember it being mentioned frequently as I grew up, usually when comedians were poking fun at the Kennedy family. I’m not sure how that was funny, but given the circus surrounding the O.J. Simpson trial, I guess just about anything’s game for satire.
What I find shocking is how Kennedy recovered from the circumstances surrounding Chappaquiddick to continue winning elections and garnering respect from his constituents and peers. It’s hard not to see him as the pantsless, partying guy he was portrayed as on Saturday Night Live in the 90’s. Fair? Probably not. But accurate? It sure sounds like they were close to the truth.
The Kennedy family released this statement this morning:
“Edward M. Kennedy — the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply — died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port.
“We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever.
“We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all.
“He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it.
“He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.”
Their statement is (wisely) almost controversy-free. There’s no denying he was loved by his family. His work as a senator is admirable, and I believe he cared about making our country a better place. But it’s hard for me to separate that from the scandals of his younger days.