Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mary Jo Kopechne and Chappaquiddick: America's Selective Memory

The idea that Edward M. Kennedy could be a viable national politician – let alone a much-admired and lionized political figure – has convinced millions of everyday citizens and succeeding generations of conservative activists that among the elites of academia, politics, and the media two standards of behavior exist: One for liberal Democrats and another for conservative Republicans. Along with sweeping changes in immigration law, soaring oratory, and strengthening the nation's social safety net, this reservoir of class resentment is also part of Kennedy's legacy.


Well of course two standards of behavior exist. But at least as of however many years ago it was, you still can't be President if you've murdered a girl. (You can have done a lot, but so far, murder or if you prefer killing, is out.) Is "murder" too strong? Very well then -- left her to die, alone and freezing in a dark, submerged car. Funny how we get all kinds of speculation about what Teddy was thinking while he walked away, "confused", "flawed", whatever. Poor Mary Jo. I wonder what she was thinking. You have to hope she was knocked unconscious by the fall, but probably not. Maybe she didn't get the chance to take a breath and drowned quickly. But maybe the car had an air pocket and she lived for hours, until hypothermia took its toll. I don't mean to be morbid. I'm just saying. The reason why ordinary people sympathize more with Mary Jo is because she died and because they can't really imagine what it would be like to be the large, drunken, powerful man who killed her. Yes, he gave a good speech. Honestly, though, so what. We still live in a country where if you belong to certain families or have enough money, you can get away with this sort of thing. Only God knows what he really amounted to in the end. He may or may not be in a better place, but we surely are. --ts

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