in the shadow of great men | august 26, 2009


Just some thoughts on the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. I don't know him that well personally or professionally, except through the footage from the documentary on immigration policy I'm working on right now. He seemed like a decent, upstanding, determined guy with a really big heart. Cut to my surprise this morning in doing a little reading about Mary Jo Kopechne.

I think maybe Kennedy spent his life trying to make up for that, and no amount of good work -- and, believe me, he did a lot -- could ever soothe his soul and conscience. I think it is unfortunate that she died. I think it is unfortunate that, at that time, his political will was more important than her life. I think it is a tragedy that so often women's voices are silenced by more willful and powerful men.

I was even more horrified in reading about Rosemary Kennedy, and how the truth of her life was silenced and covered up by the whole family, most of all Joe Kennedy. I put her picture on the blog because it's likely we will spend the next weeks and months and years eulogizing Ted, and indeed have spent the last forty years grieving his brothers, and will not have spent even a moment remembering Rosemary's promising life, snuffed out at 23, lived in mental infancy into her eighties.

I suppose all families have their secrets.

I believe in redemption, and I do applaud Ted Kennedy's strength of will, character, and political capital to become a champion for civil rights, immigration and healthcare reform. But I must lament the suppression of an equitable, just, and egalitarian family unit in order to produce a Ted or John or Robert. And the suppression of the many stories that get lost in the shadow of great men.

(I'm not cut out for politics. Not for lack of will, but rather for lack of ego. I am unable to submit the wills and dreams and voices of others to my own peculiar interpretation of the world. I notice this is a major criterion for all great men -- and women, who must marshal ego skillfully. I am lucky to have only sisters.)

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