Wednesday, August 26, 2009

End of an Era

Back in late June, when Michael Jackson died, I did not understand the gush of emotion throughout the U.S. and even around the world. Wikipedia estimates that over 31 million people watched his memorial service in Los Angeles. I was saddened by the death of that man who had shown such promise and been such an entertainer in his childhood and youth. But I didn’t “get it” about the huge reaction. I heard one media person attribute it to his death being the loss of the last icon of the Baby Boomers generation. I didn’t believe it for one moment. I didn’t buy it.

But this morning was different. Back pain awoke me about 5 a.m., and I hit the radio by my bedside to listen to NPR, hoping to fall asleep again. And I heard the horrible news. Senator Edward Kennedy died last night. This one did get to me.

To me, this is the end of an era. Whatever their private flaws, the Kennedy brothers behaved as true public servants, not just politicians. They often embodied profiles in courage. They sometimes went against their supporters. They seemed to care about the nation and our common weal. These privileged white boys from Boston championed civil rights. Perhaps it was their “aristocracy” that gave them the freedom to stand for values that I shared then and now.

As it happens, I had a meeting a church this evening that got me home late. PBS was showing the documentary, The Kennedys. It’s been difficult for me to watch. President Kennedy was the first President I remember; he was President when I was in 1st grade, and I remember that school was cancelled the day he was killed until after his burial.

And then Martin and Bobby were murdered in 1968. I developed a visceral reaction to those “Special News Bulletins” that blocked out our black-and-white TV screen back in those days. Julian Bond spoke of the death of hope after Bobby Kennedy’s murder: “And then it was over. The whole thing was just over.”

Routed by Carter for the Democratic nomination in 1980, Senator Edward Kennedy assuaged his supporters: “… the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die” in his 1980 concession speech And work he did for that work, those causes, those hopes, and those dreams.

And now Teddy is dead. Many people are explaining how that barely-30-year-old man grew into his full stature as a Senator who could make legislation, moving things forward for human rights and justice, working across the aisle to protect “the least of these.” He is not the man he was way back in the 1970s when he was first elected to the Senate. I have missed his voice in the health-care discussions. Now his voice is silenced forever. We shall not see his like again.

That line comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2, in which he says to Horatio, about his dead father:
He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
This one hits home, and it hits hard.

7 Comments:

Blogger it's margaret said...

Amen.

8/27/2009 5:50 PM  
Blogger Joanna Depue said...

Amen

8/28/2009 1:24 AM  
Blogger Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen.

8/29/2009 1:07 PM  
Blogger RevMama said...

Like you, I felt an overwhelming sadness when I heard of Ted Kennedy's death. For a moment I couldn't figure out why, but then I realized that the Kennedy brothers - John, Bobby and Ted - had shaped, not just politics, but our nation itself for almost as long as I can remember. (Almost, because I remember Eisenhower.)

Whatever their personal flaws - which they had just like the rest of us, only more publicly - all three brothers felt an obligation, or maybe even a vocation, so serve the common good and to work for the poor, the least and the over-looked.

God bless John and Bobby and Ted. And God bless all of us that we may work as tirelessly and as fearlessly as they did for justice for all people.

8/30/2009 3:40 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I too feel like an era, my era, has passed.

But there's still tread on this old tire and I ain't pulling off the freedom road yet.

9/03/2009 8:18 PM  
Blogger Joan said...

AMEN & WELL SAID!

9/04/2009 11:32 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for your comments. I think I'm still recovering from this sad passage.

9/06/2009 11:40 PM  

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