Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy: With Muffled Drum, Bring Out The Coffin. Let The Mourners Come. He Is Dead

Ted Kennedy died last night, August 25, 2009, at the age of 77, from a brain tumor diagnosed a little over a year ago. He was known as the Lion of the Senate, where he served with great distinction for many decades.

Ted Kennedy was the youngest of the brothers of his generation, and lost all three of his brothers at relatively young ages. His oldest brother, Joe, died in World War II in service to this country. His brother John became President of the United States and was assassinated while still in his 40s under circumstances which to this day remain secretive, incredible, and largely covered-up by our government. His brother Robert was also assassinated under circumstances which to this day remain largely covered up by our government. As his brothers died or were murdered, Ted Kennedy became surrogate father to his nieces and nephews, walking the girls down the aisle in weddings, providing comfort and solice for each new family tragedy. He also lost three of his nephews, young men.

Ted Kennedy suffered from what appeared to be a family or genetic tendency to substance abuse, having a long-standing rumored problem with alcohol. He was involved in a scandelous accident driving a car that went off a bridge and into the water, escaping and fleeing the scene, but a young female passenger in the car died. Many assumed Ted Kennedy had been drinking at the time of the accident, and fled the scene to avoid being tested and found to be driving under the influence, which could have led to charges of homicide.

But despite these personal problems, Ted Kennedy became the most important liberal and progressive politician in the Senate, and kept that title for decades due not to family wealth or connections, but to hard work. He was firmly committed to the traditional Democratic Party principles of standing up for working people, for the poor, for women, for the rights of all people to be free from racism. And he was one of the first and loudest voices in the Democratic Party demanding that our government finally pass a national healthcare program to provide healthcare to all Americans, free of charge.

In 2008, Ted Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary. I think it was his finest moment. Even though Obama has turned out to be such a disappointment, at the time he seemed to be so much a better choice than was Hillary Clinton.

Bill Clinton more than any other person is responsible for destroying the fundamental Democratic Party and its principles which had been supported and sustained by all the Kennedys. Bill Clinton re-made the Democratic Party into a corporate party, one in which politicians use their position only to enrich themselves and sell their votes to corporations, one in which the politicians do nothing to help the working people, and act only to amass more wealth for themselves. The new Democratic Party created by Bill Clinton loves war because the defense industry pays them so much in kick-backs that it makes war lucrative. The new Democratic Party, which Obama said he rejected but now embraces, is really indistinguishable from the Republicans, except they've got fewer lunatic from the Bible Belt.

Ted Kennedy spoke out against the war in Vietnam, and voted against the war in Iraq. And he came out in support of Obama, and stood against Clinton, choosing to end his career by standing up for his principles, just as he had done throughout his life.

Ted Kennedy was a terrific guy. His death is an enormous loss for progressives and for working people in this country.

The New York Times has a lengthy obituary, and I'm sure his life and death will be exhaustively covered by all the media.

"Funeral Blues," by W.H. Auden (1936)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the message the sky:
He Is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one:
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep away the woods:
For nothing now can come to any good.

Over the next few days, all over this country, all over the world, in many small towns, there will be masses held for Ted Kennedy. Here's my contribution, a portion of a mass, in tribute to this great man whose loss I mourn: Agnus Dei from Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis," Berlin Philharmonic.


  1. What a wonderful post. Thank you for the heartfelt tribute to Senator Ted. He will truly be missed and not by just those of us who identified with him politically.

    Where I live and work Senator Ted was vilified because of his life and politics. One hale and hearty fellow, laughing his goulish best commented in the hall outside my office that more voices need to be silenced. He offered that the only thing Senator Ted will be remembered for is fleeing the scene of an accident.

    I just happened to walk out of my office about then and he turned a grey color with green tinges around his jowly throat. He muttered something and I told him "Save it, I wouldn't expect any different from the likes of you." "Just remember Lee Atwater when the time comes for you." Then I reminded him that my favorite method of torture is to gut shoot a big fascist fat man and sit down on the floor in front of him and watch him fade into never-never land.

    Apparently he remembered he had work to do.

    I am going to go up to Arlington to see him interred. Then I will go over and say hello to John.

    Thanks again for the post, the poem and the Agnus Dei.

  2. The truly ignorant, the brutes, those who think the drug addict on the radio is clever, the morons, the losers, are rendered speechless in the face of a person like Ted Kennedy who really worked for the public good, who was loved and admired by so many, and whose death will be mourned by generations.

    These Murdoch Morons don't understand decency or compassion, so they just say stupid stuff. Good for you for getting up in their faces.

    Arlington makes me cry. I'm sure the ceremony will be beautiful.