Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ted Kennedy Part I: He Crosses the Bridge

Ted.... Mary Jo
You’d think a country that is as cranked up as the United States would refuse to give anyone, let alone a politician, a second chance. Europeans despise second chances, flailing the injured with the cool detachment of a still vibrant class system.

Part of the American ethos dictates that a loser doesn’t necessarily have to remain a loser. Down the road to success you’re bound to get in a few accidents. Pull yourself up pal.

On July 18, 1969, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, leaving a woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, to die in the submerged car. Experts believe that she lived up to four hours in the overturned vehicle. While she slowly asphyxiated, Ted dozed in a drunken sleep in a nearby hotel.

Seven days later he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury and received a suspended sentence. He gave the dead girl’s parents about $90,000. The next year he was reelected with 62% of the vote.

As the 1960s reached conclusion, dark forces, skirting the chronological perimeter for the last nine years, finally stormed the walls. For the most part, the ramparts held, supported, incredibly, by flowers and guitars. But nothing lasts forever, not even Time. In the later half of 1969, the evil that men do hit the headlines, shrieking through drifting waves of saffron and billows of tie-dyed shirts like lost V2 rockets. My Lai came on deck. Charles Manson. Brian Jones. Chappaquiddick. Altamont.

 A watery grave
But Ted Kennedy survived to become the second longest-serving U.S. senator in U.S. history. And he knew how to party hard. In 1989, European paparazzi caught Ted having sex on a boat. Numerous magazine articles profiled his sociopathic womanizing and impressive drug abuse.

In 1980 he ran for president. A few people brought up Chappaquiddick and Ted said aw, forget it, I quit. He made a great speech declaring “the dream never dies”, crawled off to Boston, and then never made that mistake again.

When Ted died in 2009 at age 77, President Obama gave the eulogy. Ted was praised as a great guy.

There’s nothing wrong with second chances. It takes guts to forgive, but it takes a lobotomy to forget.

Or maybe you just have to party, really, really hard.

But Ted never forgot.1969 held him under the waves, his destiny forever entwined in the floating, flowing hair of Mary Jo Kopechne.