Reconciling Senator Ted Kennedy’s Legacy

This morning, after hearing about the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, I sent my sentiments into the ether that is the internet.

Senator Ted Kennedy Tweet

A pretty benign and standard statement that reflected what many others felt and thought this morning, I’m sure. Imagine my surprise when I received the following e-mail just minutes after the above tweet went live:

———

Hello,

You don’t know me…I read your twitter comment about Ted Kennedy’s passing and how proud you are of him.

I was a young woman when Mary Jo Kopechne was killed at Chappaquiddick.

I was so sad for her and her family at her senseless death.

If only Senator Kennedy called the police right away and not leave her to die, she most likely would of survived the car crash.

His actions on that fateful night clearly told me about his character and I have never forgotten how he got away with it all because of who he was and his money.

You being ‘twenty something’ probably think of this as ancient history, but it’s not.

He got away with murder.

Kind regards,

Elizabeth

(Links added by Julie.)

———–

The sender is of course entitled to her opinion although I’m still a bit unsure why it was me she singled out to send this message to.  Even hours later, “Ted Kennedy” continues to be a trending topic on Twitter.

But her e-mail has left me trying to reconcile a number of points:

1. I’m a big proponent of accessibility and even wrote a post last year on why it’s important for bloggers to have their contact information displayed on their sites. But, I have to be honest, it was unnerving to get e-mail of that sort in a place (my inbox) which is usually one filled with friendly “faces”. What happened if someone decided to send me truly malicious e-mails? Have I set myself up for disaster? At the moment, I’ve decided to keep my e-mail accessible on this site and hopefully I won’t regret it.

2. It’s an interesting feeling growing up in a country where you were not born. Most days, you feel like a local but little things will remind you that in some ways, you’ll always be a transplant and an outsider. Defining what I consider to be my history is a bit tricky: I feel ownership over USSR events that took place up to 1991 (the year I immigrated to America) and over American events that have taken place since then, but not vice versa. I feel the same disconnection with America’s struggle with slavery as I do with a democratic Russia…

As such, Elizabeth is right in assuming that being young does affect my view of Senator Kennedy but I would argue that others of my generation may have a different perspective. I simply lacked an environment where that story would have been passed down and where I would have been exposed to opinions on the subject that would have helped define Senator Kennedy’s persona for me.

3. In trying to mull over how to combine these two images of Senator Kennedy – seen by some as a murderer and by others as a champion of human rights, here’s what I think I’ve come to stand on the issue:

Unfortunately, during one chapter of Senator Ted Kennedy’s life, he panicked, made a mistake, didn’t handle a situation as he should have.  As my good friend David points out, “[What happened is] a chapter that can’t be left out. And for some, it’s the only chapter”. When looking at Senator Ted Kennedy’s life it’s important to view it as a whole and not get stuck on one chapter. As a whole, Senator Kennedy was a great man who worked to better the world and his memory should be shown the respect it deserves.

  • Allison

    I think the chapter in a book analogy is a good one. I don’t think that episode is something we can overlook. A girl died and it was terrible and tragic, and a big mistake on Sen. Kennedy’s part. He was human and made a lot of errors in judgment in his personal life, and to idolize him and forget his misgivings would be wrong and I’m not sure he would even want that. He was very far from perfect, but I think his human-ness and his mistakes are part of what made him understand people so well and empathize with them. Mistakes aside, Kennedy did a lot for the state of Massachusetts and for many, many people around the world who would have been voiceless without him as their champion and he deserves a few days of remembrance and celebration, without the critical remarks.

  • http://twitter.com/julieminevich/statuses/3579434468 julieminevich (Julie Minevich)

    Twitter Comment


    Senator Ted Kennedy’s Legacy: [link to post] – How an e-mail left me pondering accessibility, ownership of history, & who Kennedy was.

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • http://twitter.com/julieminevich/statuses/3564919213 julieminevich (Julie Minevich)

    Twitter Comment


    Senator Ted Kennedy’s Legacy: [link to post]. (How an e-mail left me pondering accessibility, ownership of history, & who Kennedy was.)

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Margalit

    I think it’s interesting that this incident is really at the forefront of the media right now as everyone is mourning Kennedy’s passing. His whole life is being overshadowed by this, yet when MJ died, how quickly everyone (including his own communities who had slandered him) forgot all the allegations of child molestation and drug abuse…none of which could even be construed as an “accident.” Though Kennedy was a “celebrity” of politics, we clearly see that Americans are still quicker to posthumously forgive popular icons of music or film and not those who actively dedicated their lives to bettering the lives of those around them.