Fringe Elements

I’m not a Kennedy groupie.  Before I started reading all these articles about Senator Ted and his accomplishments, I thought of him the same way I think of PETA: I agree with the agenda, but the reputation get my eyes rolling… why do they always have to look like such wackos?

Then again, the extremists at PETA, while pushing a vegan agenda, won much improved living conditions for animals who are raised to be eaten.  I think many people who find PETA ridiculous would still agree that chickens should be treated with some basic decency.

I love that Teddy Kennedy did a lot of crazy things, got mixed up in a lot of stuff.  He was clearly not an angel.  His temperament and some of his escapades set him up for caricature.

I love that even though he lost two brothers to political assassination, he kept working as a politician his whole life.  That’s crazy.  What with the astronomical uptick in threats to our president*, putting yourself out there like that suddenly seems especially meaningful.  For being in public service and advocating an optional public health insurance plan, people will call you a Nazi or burn you in effigy.  These politicians can’t feel safe.  They must worry about the safety of their families, as well.

Kennedy started pushing for public health insurance in 1969.  It sounds crazy now, but of course Richard Nixon was the one leading the charge.  That crazy old liberal Nixon!  What a big-government fool!  (I’m not sure who’s the extremist in that duo, except possibly the current-day GOP.)

Senator Kennedy also pushed for the Americans with Disabilities Act, while remaining the poster child of a ridiculous liberal.  Okay, but spend one day with your grandma in a wheelchair and you’ll want to thank him. Those ramps are everywhere now!

We need some “wackos” to push us, and, perhaps more importantly, to hide behind their wacko reputation to get valuable work done.  They can go out on a limb when other people can’t.  A lot of other heroes are wackos, too: Gandhi starved himself, and Dr. King kept preaching even when they bombed his house. 

I’m a more mellow character, myself, not out on the fringe.  I’ll just toast the late Mr. Kennedy, and make sure it’s whiskey, not scotch.

*   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/5967942/Barack-Obama-faces-30-death-threats-a-day-stretching-US-Secret-Service.html

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