Teddy Kennedy can probably be best described in the very words with which he eulogised his older brother, Robert "…a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."
Edward Moore Kennedy, in death as in life, incites some of the best and the worst aspects of the American character. He was not a man about whom many people were neutral or lukewarm.
The journalistic cliché factories are in full production and their output may be best summarised by this headline in the New York Times
"Gifted and Flawed Legislator, 77, from a Storied family"
That just about sums up most of what will be written about Ted Kennedy, although to be fair to the NYT, their coverage of his life was not as cliché-bound as the quoted headline might suggest.
Born into privilege, Kennedy grew up as his family was being translated by the press and media into the American equivalent of royalty. He seemed born to be a playboy, a quintessential Irish charmer, who transformed himself by discipline and hard work into the best president the Americans have never had.
David Broder, a journalist who knew him for nearly fifty years saw Kennedy as a man who always met his challenges head-on:
"As a senator, as the de facto leader of liberal Democrats for decades, even as a failed presidential candidate, Ted Kennedy was always the same, pursuing his goals no matter the odds. Where brother Bob cautiously waited until Lyndon Johnson withdrew from the presidential race to begin his anti-Vietnam War campaign in 1968, Ted Kennedy in 1980 challenged the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, simply in the belief that Carter had abandoned the principles of the Democratic Party."
Kennedy overcame challenges that would have floored most politicians, no matter how gifted and well-connected. The disaster at Chappaquiddick – where, drunk and probably asleep at the wheel, he drove his car off a bridge and into a river killing his passenger, a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne – would probably have ended the career of any other politician, anywhere. Earlier, when his brothers John and and Robert were murdered for their politics, he replaced them in the firing line without hesitation. He took the war to the Republican party, earning their particular scorn as a traitor to his class, a leftist liberal who championed the causes of the poor, most importantly for raising the minimum wage and fighting to the last to guarantee affordable health care to the poor. Stories of his kindness to people he did not know continue to surface. His was a regime of service to the American people and the people of the world that lasted forty years. He was, after Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd, the longest serving American senator in history and a man of tremendous legislative accomplishments. He was simultaneously, the fiercest opponent of the GOP and yet one of the most bipartisan forces in the Senate – respected and even loved, by some of his opponents. He was both lion and lamb, a formidable warrior who preferred peace.
In the end, Teddy Kennedy probably represents to non-Americans the truest symbol of the 'real America' of their dreams, a plain human being with obvious faults and even more extraordinary virtues.
After he was defeated for the Democratic nomination he produced an epitaph for the campaign which fits his own life:
""For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."
Where is the Justice, Mr Mueller?
Few people in the United States of America appear to be aware that across the Atlantic in official circles and among the public there is considerable doubt that a credible case was ever made out against the Libyan al-Magrahi, the so-called Lockerbie bomber.
Even President Obama has felt constrained to chide the Scottish authorities for releasing the terminally ill alleged bomber to return to his home in Libya, to die . To say as many Americans do, that the compassionate release of al-Magrahi devalues the suffering of the relatives of those slaughtered at Lockerbie is not only cruel, but stupid.
Unfortunately the US media have never kept their audiences informed about the case. One who should know better is the director of the FBI, Mr Mueller, who was involved in the investigation. In a very personal response to the decision of the Scottish authorities Mr Mueller accuses them of making "a mockery of the emotions, passions and pathos of all those affected by the Lockerbie tragedy: the medical personnel who first faced the horror of 270 bodies strewn in the fields around Lockerbie, …But most importantly, your action makes a mockery of the grief of the families who lost their own on December 21, 1988.
"…You apparently made this decision without regard to the views of your partners in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the Lockerbie tragedy." He accuses the Scots of "hiding behind opaque references to 'the need for compassion' ".
Where, Mueller asks, is the justice?
Oddly enough, another development this week brings up that very question. Former US army Lieutenant William Calley, now in his sixties, has apologised for his actions in the killing of over 300 people in My Lai during the Vietnam war.
In a speech to his local Rotary Club, Calley said " "I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry."
In reporting Calley's remorse last week the New York Times said: "Just before Mr. Calley was released in 1974, Linda Greenhouse reported in The New York Times that three months in a prison barracks had been "[Calley's] only prolonged incarceration." As Ms. Greenhouse wrote, powerful supporters intervened as soon as he was sentenced in 1971:
"Three days after the conviction President Nixon ordered him released form the stockade at Fort Benning, Ga., and placed under house arrest in a comfortable two-bedroom apartment. There he received frequent visits from a staff of secretaries and a steady female companion." – New York Times, August 24, 2009.
Where was the justice then?
The relatives and friends of more than 70 Cubans, Barbadians and Guryanese blown out of the Barbadian sky in December 1976 are still waiting for justice. They know who ordered the mass murder, they know how he delegated and supplied his assassins, they know that the evidence against him is overwhelming, unlike the evidence against Megrahi. Yet this terrorist, this enemy of humanity is even now under the protection of the government of the United States, having been rescued from imprisonment in Panama and flown to safety in the US under the auspices of highly placed officials and agents of the US Government.
This assassin is named Luis Posada Carilles – 'Bambi' to his friends. He lives in opulent comfort in Florida, safe from justice.
Since Mr Mueller of the FBI has the authority and the evidence,, and since terrorism is a crime against humanity, why does Mr Mueller not arrest and charge Posada Carriles?
Where is the justice Mr Mueller?
Stealing from our Children, Again
As the working class heroes of the Berlin World Championships return to their homes in Jamaica, most will be returning to homes in areas which cannot be described as upscale in neighbourhoods not shall we say, exactly salubrious.
The managers of the team, whose stupidity almost caused us to lose half the team and most of the medals, return too, in triumph of a kind, I suppose. They live in townhouses.
And the people M.G. Smith once called "the motorised salariat" are again about to steal what properly belongs to the working class of Jamaica
I was born, like Usain Bolt, within a ten mile radius of the new multi-purpose Trelawny Stadium. The ginnigogs now ruling the University of Technology are campaigning to capture this prime sporting asset to turn into a factory for the production of cannon fodder for the class wars. They want to turn it into a degree mill for the production of Masters of Business Administration.
The UTECH ginnigogs may not be aware that the father of their university was a man named Norman Manley, who, when he set up the College of Arts, Science and Technology fifty one years ago, envisaged it as the nucleus of a University of jamaica.
Manley saw that university as a dynamo for the empowerment of working class and small farm Jamaica, where people would become equipped to develop and return their knowledge to the development of Jamaica, especially the Jamaican countryside, which he saw not as an appendage to Kingston, but as a full partner in economic development based on local production, enhanced by scientific and technical expertise developed to serve the nation.
That's one of the reasons he was called the Father of the Nation.
Trelawny is at the centre of Jamaica's history, the centre of resistance to British hegemony, the home of the Maroons and even now, the home to the most economically independent Jamaicans.
The super ginnigogs like P.J.Patterson, Vin Lawrence and Tony Hylton see Trelawny as an outpost of the North American dream, a coastline fenced off from Jamaicans, entertaining casinos and private dwellings on the land where so much blood has fertilised Jamaican freedom.
Falmouth is presently slated to become a kind of apartheid trading post, run by foreigners for their own benefit, where enormous cruise ships will come to offload their sewerage and buy cheap water while allowing their thousands of passengers to patronise selected attractions, none of which will involve Jamaican culture, knowhow or people.
The Glistening Waters' phosphorescent lagoon, one of only three remaining in the world, will be obliterated, the parish will be divided by a cordon sanitaire, without respect or regard for the precious botanical, pharmacological, historic, geological and hydrogeological resources of the Cockpit Country; resources which could transform the entire nation. And Accompong – over the border in St Elizabeth but geographically a part of Trelawny – seems destined to be corrupted into the most darling little theme park.
And the multipurpose stadium will not serve the interests of the Usain Bolts and Shelly Anne Frasers, the Veronica Campbell Browns and the Asafa Powells. Instead it will be churning out thousands of otherwise useless people trained to design Ponzi schemes and produce superprofits for their masters.
In my view, the multipurpose stadium would be the perfect place for the relocation of the piece of the Berlin Wall presented by Berlin to usain Bolt. It could become an extension of the G.C Foster College, already the premier establishment of its kind in the Caribbean. With the stadium as an extension of G.C.Foster, it could expand its range to become the Third World headquarters for training people in all kinds of sporting and sporting related activities including gymnastics and physical rehabilitation. It could also be home to music, dance and art schools and be a real dynamo of the Jamaican culture, extending the reach of children, training teachers, trainers and coaches and helping them to make the best of themselves and of their country. and becoming a centre of excellence for the Americas and the world. Instead, UTECH wants to turn it into a forcing house for bean counters, a place inhospitable to culture and learning, training people to produce even greater economic inequality in Jamaica and even more criminals.
While they are about it, perhaps they could build a new prison there, too.
Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell