Friday, August 28, 2009

Papier Mache Hero, R.I.P.

Being an Aries and therefore a natural optimist (my glass is usually more than half full), taking a negative stance so often in this blog goes against my nature, but.... it's hard to remain Pollyana while swimming in crap.  Ewww.

We're in the middle of yet another media event with the macabre circus surrounding Senator Edward Kennedy's death.  Those charming pictures of the Kennedys are more familiar to me than my own family album, and the syrupy nostalgic narratives accompanying them make me retch and reach for the Pepto-Bismol.

As with everyone else who drew breath in the last half of the 20th century, "America's Royals" are part of my history and imprinted in my memory.  As I've only recently seen the Republican light, "Kennedy" was a magical mantra to little old Democratic me.  I was appalled and completely disheartened the day I learned of the maggoty underpinnings of glamorous, charismatic Camelot.

My blinders were finally ripped off with this 2003 PBS documentary on the Kennedy dynasty.  It doesn't show all the gruesome details, but it does touch on many of the baser elements of this family and its less-than-perfect icons, starting with the Patriarch of Sleaze, Joe Kennedy, Sr.  The only Kennedys who turn out to be true princesses are poor lobotomized Rosemary and a few of the long-suffering women. 

As a realist, I certainly can't expect any human to be faultless.  Politics being what it is, that arena is the last place I'd look for anyone even close to perfect.  In fact, it's certain that the relentless scrutiny most candidates  endure (notably excepting President O) is a major reason we have so few sterling individuals serving in political office -- who could possibly pass muster with every minor flaw exposed?  Not I -- and I'm betting not you, either.

I'm also the last person to stand in judgment on anyone else's misadventures, foolishness and (dare I name it?) sin, but it's difficult to understand why this particular Senator from this extraordinary family is eulogized as an American saint, particularly in light of his documented history of whopping moral failures.  I don't understand the apparent blind eye the East Coast Catholic bishops have turned on the Catholic Senator's positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research, which are in direct opposition to those of the Catholic church, (although the  Big Cheese Bishops have always genuflected to the Kennedy family).

Although it's obviously the media's mission to create and propogate the myth of celebrity, if you look beyond their drippy hype and scrutinize the facts behind Ted Kennedy's life, it's hard to understand why this man is being held up to us as an American legend and hero.  He's had powerful influence in the Senate, to be sure, and he's been a strong and consistent voice for the positive values of the Democratic party -- but I surely wouldn't point to him and encourage my grandchildren to choose Teddy as a hero. 

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