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.


Eric Cantor is an Average, Decent Republican

Rush Limbaugh doesn’t act like a grown-up.  I guess that is not news.  He is, as the Republican Party Chairman said, an entertainer.  Entertainers don’t usually act like grown-ups. 

Grown-ups, of which we have very few in our world, don’t want people to suffer.  People suffering kicks in their empathy.  They suffer with people who are suffering. 

This does not mean that they view suffering as an outright evil, though.  Suffering because you don’t get candy at the grocery store is good suffering.  We’re talking about serious, long-term damage suffering, like losing your house, your job, your health, your life.  Grown-ups have empathy and it hurts to see people lose these things, even if they deserve it, even if it teaches them a lesson.  It’s hard to watch.  

Grown-ups have won some things they didn’t deserve (and know it).  They have also escaped some punishments they did deserve, without volunteering for punishment.  When was the last time you wrote yourself a speeding ticket?  Grown-ups know that life is not fair, and people are thorougly imperfect, and this enhances their empathy.

In 2003, I listened and read, and ultimately believed that invading Iraq was wrong.  I wrote letters, went to protests.  The U.S. invaded Iraq anyway. 

I hoped like crazy that my judgment was faulty.  I hoped that the peace demonstrators would be proven wrong.  I hoped that the people being mentally, physically, and emotionally scarred would be balanced by a clear purpose and the larger good that would come out of the war.  I hoped Bush was right and I was wrong.  I wanted Bush’s war to succeed.  I’d rather be wrong than have people suffer.

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor is a grown up.  “I don’t think anyone wants anything to fail right now,” the Grown-up says.  Thank you, Eric Cantor.  Just because you think the Democrats’ plan won’t work doesn’t mean you want it to fail.  Reference again here, I didn’t think the Iraq plan would work, but I desperately want it to succeed.

I am, and will remain, deeply opinionated; however, my opinions aren’t intended to be used for worship or as weapons.  If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.  Being wrong helps you learn, and it keeps you humble.

Mr. Limbaugh, on the other hand, must personify his opinions to entertain people, rather than being a grown-up.  At least, he thinks that he must.  I wonder if a person with an open mind exploring ideas would be entertaining.  I guess that’s why we have “60 Minutes.”