Saturday, February 13, 2010

Twilight of the Kennedys

People say there is no good news these days. But I beg to differ! It seems that, sometime this year, we will come to a milestone – namely “Washington without a Kennedy in political office for the first time in more than 60 years.” This is on the occasion of Patrick Kennedy's announcement that he will not seek re-election. I can hardly wait to breathe the clear, crisp air of Washington, DC without the oppressive foetor of the Kennedy myth hanging over it. I cannot imagine America without its myths, but it's easy to imagine America without the myth of “Camelot”. If e'er idols had feet of clay, it was in The Brothers Kennedy, who dominated the nation's capital in one way or the other for, as the article says, 60 years. Of course, the master plan – shown in unabashed detail in an early propaganda piece (which I have a copy of, and I'm sure it's a collector's item) – was for JFK to serve out two terms, followed by two terms for Bobby and two for Teddy... at which point the next generation would have been ready to take over, and we would have had the longest-running royal family since the Plantagenets. But it was not meant to be... because cooler heads prevailed – aided, I'm certain, by a good dose of anti-Catholicism -- ironically, I might add, since I have always considered the Kennedys to have been very bad Catholics, and one of my gripes with the Knights of Columbus -- even though I'm a member -- is that they continue to idolize JFK. So the Kennedys were dethroned, and denied any further opportunities. In the case of JFK and Bobby, this can be attributed to a handful of bullets as the primary cause, but in Teddy's case it was more a matter of multiple and blatant character flaws. And yet this did not keep the people of Massachusetts from re-electing him, generation after generation – but, as I've commented before, the spectacle of American Catholics consistently voting for anti-Catholic (in action if not in name) politicians is a great mystery.

But what, precisely, are my objections to the Kennedys? Am I a “Kennedy hater”? I don't think it's quite that simple. I understand their pretenses to being “America's royalty”, because, after all, people – and a nation – need royalty of some sort; this has been proven time and time again. In other words, someone had to do it, so why not them? What would you prefer, the Bushes? Please. The most royalty-bound nations on earth in the 20th Century were, in fact, communist – regicides in theory, but enamored of royalty, and even hereditary rule (as shown by the Kims in North Korea and the Castros in Cuba). World War II in Europe was, basically, fought among 3 kings – FDR, Hitler, and Stalin... with a couple of dukes (Churchill and Mussolini) thrown in for good measure. The “real” royalty had, basically, nothing to do with it – although Hirohito apparently had a role to play on the Pacific front. So the seeking after emperors, kings, and rulers is a natural human trait, and one that we are unlikely to evolve out of very soon. The question is not “shall we have kings?” but what our criteria should be for deeming a person worthy of the crown. In sub-Saharan Africa, it's generally the biggest, meanest, and most vicious SOB around. In the Arab world, it's whoever promises to do the most damage to Israel... and in Israel, it's whoever promises to do the most damage to the Arabs. And so on. So no, the mere designation of the Kennedys as “American royalty” is not, in and of itself, sufficient grounds for reproach.

Well then, how about the fact that, in some ways, they really aren't snobs at all, despite their legendary wealth (most, if not all, of which was ill-gotten anyway)? I mean, OK, they do live in a “compound” and spend a lot of time sailing, but in the old days they spent at least as much time playing touch football and throwing each other into swimming pools. No one would ever accuse them of being intellectual, or even particularly cultured; they're basically a bunch of jocks (not unlike the British royals, for that matter). And they seem like the sort who would be perfectly comfortable sitting at a bar with ordinary folks – or tending that same bar, for that matter.

Well then, what about their teeth, which are twice the size of anyone else's? Or their wives, who all have the same hairdos and the same pointed chins and stringy necks? Or those impossible accents, that no one else in Massachusetts seems to have? Hey, you'll never catch me “dissing” people just because of their DNA; that's really not at all fair.

Is it the fact that they seem, to all appearances, to be towering hypocrites – living on top of the heap while seeing to it that everyone else has to live in a liberal dystopia? Well yes, that's part of it, for certain, along with the notion that they know better than you do what should be done with your money. Certainly a “Kennedy world”, if we lived in it today, would consist mainly of a controlling elite (with all of the glamor, energy, teeth, etc. of Camelot) and a bunch of happy peasants and laborers. Kind of like what we have now, in fact, but with a more human face. Maybe. But even so, there are liberals leaning against every lamppost in Washington, DC and yet they don't have the power to offend that the Kennedys always seemed to have. I think it's because they were, and are, not only totally convinced of their own superiority, but always tried to combine this with “the common touch”. That, to my way of thinking, only aggravates the offense. I say that if you're going to be an elite snob, at least act like one – that way you can be one of those people that people love to hate, like the villains in the old “Perils of Pauline” films – you know, the guys with the top hats and the thin, curly mustaches. Those were villains worthy of the name. The Kennedy type is more like the beefy, red-faced guy who slaps you on the back in the bar, then leaves before you find out your wallet is missing. He's the “good guy” who leaves a trail of destruction in his wake... the guy who, ultimately, wants you to be part of his world, but as a servant or facilitator, not an equal. And he expects to be thanked, and esteemed, more and more as time goes on, no matter what the record shows. He is, in a way, the prototype alcoholic – not necessarily in the literal sense, but in the transactional sense. He is always there, in your face, asking for another chance to do good -- which means, do good unto others but not unto you. He's the guy we can hardly imagine living without... but when he finally leaves, we heave a great sigh of relief. So if you hear a sigh of this sort emanating out of Washington later this year, that may be the reason.

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