The President, the Senator, and the Candidate

Today, as the severity of Senator Kennedy's condition became more apparent, I found myself, once again, back in seventh grade. I am in a large hall, waiting in line. I am not sure what the line is for, and for some reason the line can't seem to form properly. We seem to be waiting to go into an auditorium. Words are migrating from student to student. It is November 22nd, 1963. The President has been shot. Next to me stands a sweet looking young girl. Shoulder length dirty blond hair. Delicate features. And she says, "I hope that he dies." This was the President who had taken us through the Cuban Missile Crisis, who spoke of civil rights, and who had two young children. And she wanted him dead. Her hatred was palpable and irrational. In retrospect, given the times, I have always wondered whether her enmity was due to the fact that he was a Catholic, and one who supported civil rights.

At 12 years old, I couldn't fathom what I was hearing. I was struck dumb. I simply couldn't respond. I just stared at her and turned away. Now, of course, I know that it was not her wish, but her parents' or some relative's wish. But over the years this fact has only intensified the shock. Everyone says that they remember where they were when they heard that Kennedy was shot. I remember. But I also recall a young girl who believed that she wanted to see him dead.

Before I became fully aware of the deep divisions in the country over civil rights, Vietnam, or "values," I knew that if this young president could create such hostility, something was terribly wrong. And so it was. I suppose that this was my introduction to the 1960's. Every now and again this scene reappears. Sometimes it arises for no apparent reason. Sometimes it arises at appropriate moments, like today, when we have learned that Senator Kennedy is gravely ill.

I have not always agreed with the Kennedys. But I remember supporting Bobby. And of course I remember him being shot. I also remember Teddy trying so very hard, over four long decades, to do the right thing for the underprivileged and marginalized. I recently cheered as The Lion of the Senate passed the torch to Obama. He was aging. Now that he had found someone he trusted to carry on the Kennedy legacy, there was an arc from 1963 to 2008, an arc that the last eight years of Bush, Rove, Cheney, et al, seemed to have made impossible. But as I have watched the returns from certain states, such as Kentucky this evening, I return to that space in 1963, and I am afraid. I fear that as a nation we will fail to do the right thing because we are still too afraid of those who are "not like us."

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Tags: Catholics, civil rights, Democrats, Election, John Kennedy, Kentucky, obama, Presidency, President Kennedy, Senator Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Tolerance (all tags)

Comments

17 Comments

must everything be partisan?!?!

you had me until "recently cheered as The Lion of the Senate passed the torch to Obama."

shame because it was a good diary until then.

by canadian gal 2008-05-20 09:53PM | 0 recs
Re: must everything be partisan?!?!

I say the torch will go to Hillary. She's got the dynastic component, the respect of both sides of the isle, and she will take his spot, and get health care thru in the future.

by DiamondJay 2008-05-20 10:07PM | 0 recs
Re: must everything be partisan?!?!

dude - you're doing the same thing.

by canadian gal 2008-05-20 10:09PM | 0 recs
Everything must be defined by whether or not

They support Senator Obama or Senator Clinton.

The world WILL NOT WORK OTHERWISE!

I haven't been able to eat for months... ARE WAFFLES PRO-OBAMA?

by Lord Hadrian 2008-05-20 10:18PM | 0 recs
lol.

waffles are pro obama and pancakes are for clinton...  damn partisan breakfast!

by canadian gal 2008-05-20 10:28PM | 0 recs
Re: lol.

Please don't tell me Froot Loops are pro-McCain, or I'm going to have to shoot myself.

by asherrem 2008-05-20 10:30PM | 0 recs
Prune Juice and

Large Suppositories are Pro-McCain.

Fruit Loops are on the fence :'(.

by Lord Hadrian 2008-05-20 10:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Prune Juice and

LMAO...you don't know just how funny that is.

I had stomach surgery last week, and guess what they gave me for nausea afterward...

...that's right.

I am SO screwed.

by asherrem 2008-05-20 10:34PM | 0 recs
Oh... so many possibilities.

John McCain is always the butt of jokes ;).

by Lord Hadrian 2008-05-20 10:36PM | 0 recs
Re: lol.
This obviously requires a separate diary. The politics of food is the topic of several seminal PhD theses.
by Jeter 2008-05-21 12:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Everything must be defined by whether or not

I don't know if waffles are pro-Obama, but Obama is definitely pro-waffles.

by sricki 2008-05-20 10:33PM | 0 recs
I just... can't watch someone eat

It makes me queasy.

by Lord Hadrian 2008-05-20 10:35PM | 0 recs
Respect for past and present warriors of the peopl
DJ - I understand your enthusiasm and support For Hillary Clinton. I don't mean to scold or criticize you but your comment is blunt. Senator Kennedy is not dead and now is the time to avoid what the MSM has ben doing for the past week: Subsuming his great legacy and ignoring his family to make stupid comments about the current Democratic Presidential nominating process. Let the MSM wallow in their own bad taste and manipulative enmity towards the American electorate.

I see great things in store for this country, and great things in store for Democrats and the people of this country. Sometimes things take more time than we would like them to take. But let's take the time now to reflect on Senator Kennedy's accomplishments and look forward optimistically towards more time during which he can live a life he has dedicated to others through tireless public service. I pray for his family as well, wishing them all the best possible outcomes in everything they do.

by Jeter 2008-05-21 12:22AM | 0 recs
Re: must everything be partisan?!?!

Why does that diminish it?  If Kennedy supports a position or candidate you don't agree with, you'll just have to deal with your disappointment.

Kennedy's Endorsement Speech:

There was another time, when another young candidate was running for President and challenging America to cross a New Frontier.  He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic President, who was widely respected in the party. Harry Truman said we needed "someone with greater experience"--and added: "May I urge you to be patient." And John Kennedy replied: "The world is changing. The old ways will not do...It is time for a new generation of leadership."

When John Kennedy thought of going to the moon, he didn't say no, it was too far, maybe we couldn't get there and shouldn't even try.

I am convinced we can reach our goals only if we are "not petty when our cause is so great"- only if we find a way past the stale ideas and stalemate of our times - only if we replace the politics of fear with the politics of hope - and only if we have the courage to choose change.

Barack Obama is the one person running for President who can bring us that change.

Barack Obama is the one person running for President who can be that change.

I love this country. I believe in the bright light of hope and possibility. I always have, even in the darkest hours. I know what America can achieve. I've seen it.  I've lived it--and with Barack Obama, we can do it again.

I know that he's ready to be President on day one.  And when he raises his hand on Inauguration Day, at that very moment, we will lift the spirits of our nation and begin to restore America's standing in the world.

So it is with Barack Obama. He has lit a spark of hope amid the fierce urgency of now.

I believe that a wave of change is moving across America. If we do not turn aside, if we dare to set our course for the shores of hope, we together will go beyond the divisions of the past and find our place to build the America of the future.

My friends, I ask you to join in this historic journey -- to have the courage to choose change.

It is time again for a new generation of leadership.

by obscurant 2008-05-20 10:26PM | 0 recs
recommended
thank you for sharing.  :-)
s.
by synth 2008-05-20 10:15PM | 0 recs
Very poignant words.

Highly recommended.

And let me go ahead and apologize for polluting your touching diary with a big picture of Obama eating a waffle. I just couldn't help myself.

by sricki 2008-05-20 10:37PM | 0 recs
Re: The President, the Senator, and the Candidate

The "Lion" and most of his family are for Obama purely out of spite. They can't stand the fact that Bill won two elections as a Dem and Hillary's winning would really supplant the Kennedys as the Gold Standard of the Democratic Party.  That's why they're for Obama. They're not fooling me, although they're obviously fooling a lot of others.

by handsomegent 2008-05-21 03:39AM | 0 recs

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