Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Season of Hope

I just finished reading at The Wayward Episcopalian (hat tip!) and saw the Kennedy video. I was literally crying. Here, me, on this blazing hot August day dressed ridiculously in my underwear and a T-shirt with an ice pack on my head sitting in front of the computer... crying. What a picture.

Even the dogs came to wonder what tragedy befell me that I was sitting here crying, my most faithful--Bootsie, a black semi-feral lab/pit/border collie mix--sitting in front of me with his head on my knees in concern. I don't do this often.

To turn time back, when John Kennedy was assassinated (note the TWO "ass"es in the front of that word), I was at the then-wee Orange County, CA airport getting ready to board a helicopter to LAX to then fly to visit relatives in Ann Arbor, Michigan for the Thanksgiving holiday. I was in eighth grade and had taken the studies for my eighth-grade constitutional test with me. There was a radio station booth at the airport, and that is how I learned of the tragedy. I remember looking at the broadcaster who had tears running down his face, the voice from the station warbly, at best. I was absolutely stunned. Who would shoot our president?

I ran and told my mom who was far more concerned about making the flight. My mom, who is 94 and remains an uneducated Republican (no dishonor meant, it's just the truth) has never, in my 55 year rememberance, read a thing about politics or history or looked herself for independent validation of fact. I thought her reaction was extremely cold and wrong. Her reaction to press over the holiday (including the funeral) was worse. It was painful for me, even as a child, to see my mom so uncaring about a president lost. Her words I remember, "I don't want to watch this again. I'm sick of it. Who cares."

I was watching the news (real time) when Bobby Kennedy was shot. I was alone and remember crying out, "No! No!" But it was done. I revered Bobby perhaps even more than his brother, John, because I understood better what he represented and was doing. I had to wonder what forces of hatred could commit such crimes. My mother's reaction? About the same.

What threat was so grave that an American would kill both John and Bobby (and Martin), I wondered.

My mother's daughter was different. I am compassionate to the core. I was deeply moved by both deaths, and Martin's death held a different meaning, and all lives. I have watched Senator Ted Kennedy, for most of my life, move gracefully in a political world of tripwires and accusation. He has never faltered. Ted is the real deal. He is what many can only aspire to be and there is NO senator that can even compare.

I am an activist born to a family whose activism past the Civil War died. Born of underground railroad family and a Native American judge. Me, the Black Sheep. The one that made family purse their lips, give a nod of the head and sigh, "Well, she is different."

I was too young to drive, so I rode my bike to Vietnam War protests or had older friends drive me. I scoured the Los Angeles Times (when it was a really good paper) every morning seeking to understand the world in the days of Walter Cronkeit, Life Magazine and television reporting that wasn't massaged by approved pool reporters their masters or editors. I lived in a day and time when news meant something, when journalists had integrity, when media would print truthful, if difficult, photographs and when the American public was viewed as able and smart enough to make their own decisions. I lived in the days of the first live war reporting. I cried many a time. People need to see war. They need to see it because words cannot describe it. Not Hemingway, and surely not news reporters. You have to see and hear it. Those days are all gone.

They are gone because of media manipulation, gone because of political manipulation and the FCC, and gone because the American public settles for the crap they call news as if we Americans were somehow unattached to the real world and the "rest" doesn't matter. We are too comfortable, spoiled, and we are international brats as individuals, collectively. We should be embarrassed. There's that "ass" word again. Maybe we should rightfully paste it on our foreheads and confess. We are a nation of asses.

We Americans stink sometimes. These days, the rest of the globe thinks we are backwards and stupid, and for the past twenty years, and particularly the last eight, we have, collectively, lived up to that sad assessment time and time again.

But not Ted Kennedy. This man does NOT live up to that assessment. His sights are true and higher. While he assigns the season of hope to now--to Barak Obama--I assign that to him. HE has been our season of hope.

Watch it! (Hanky alert!). If this doesn't touch your heart, you'd better check your pulse.

Photo credit: (Rick Wilking/Reuters)