It is said that one should not speak poorly of the dead. But it is also said that one should not discuss politics or religion in polite company, and we regularly violate that dictum. Thus, committing another faux pas gives us no real pause.
I am, of course, warming up to say a few unkind words about the just deceased Sen. Kennedy.
In reviewing his life, his fans will hold him up as a flawed but still shining beacon for the common man. Quoting one mostly favorable article today…
“Kennedy entered Harvard College in 1950, but was suspended the following year for allowing another student to take a Spanish test for him.”
And people claim there is such a thing as media bias! Pshaw!
I’m sure that the student Kennedy so kindly “allowed” to take his Spanish test – no doubt because the poor fellow needed to hone his test-taking skills – virtually begged Ted to let him stand in.
But his cheating ways, which extended to drunkenly chasing the girlfriends of younger clan members around family compounds, are not the source of my gripe about the all-too-human Kennedy.
My issue emanates from a stop some years ago by the side of the road in Martha’s Vineyard. On the island for a vacation, I took the short detour to see the site of Kennedy’s infamous accident at the bridge to Chappaquiddick. Getting out of the car, I vividly remember my first impression.
“This is it? That’s where Kennedy’s car went in?”
The thing is that the canal is narrow and shallow. I’ll give Kennedy the benefit of the doubt that he was disoriented – massive quantities of alcohol will do that to a guy – but I won’t give him anything toward his contention that he couldn’t have taken more active measures to save Mary Jo Kopechne’s life.
Any reasonably strong swimmer – which I assume he was, having grown up on the water – could have made the shallow dive necessary to get her out. But even if he was too drunk or scared to pull that off, he could have quickly found the help needed to get her out before the air bubble in the car was exhausted and she drowned. Instead, walking by a fire station and a private house, stopping at neither to request help, he trod a circuitous path to his hotel, where, after changing into dry clothes and lamely trying to establish an alibi by visiting the front desk to complain of a loud party, he turned in.
It was only nine hours after driving off the bridge, and after a local fisherman had discovered the car, that Kennedy finally reported the accident.
This is, of course, all part of the historical record – an interesting part of which you can read by following the link below to the FBI files on the accident, made available thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request.
But I will never forget my visceral reaction to the sight of that small and shallow channel, the certain knowledge that Ted Kennedy was a sociopath, a coward, and a cretin, who made every possible move to rescue his political career and almost none to save the life of a young woman.
That he wasn’t properly prosecuted but received a slap on the wrist with a two-month suspended sentence speaks volumes about the nature of political power and our justice system.
And that he subsequently went on to become a political icon, idolized as a champion of the downtrodden, says everything there is to say about human gullibility.