I’m generally not inclined to speak ill of the recently dead. I also want to keep my distance from the reflexively venomous commentary I’ve seen from some, though certainly not all, conservative bloggers and pundits. Finally, I didn’t think there was anything new worth saying about Chappaquiddick, 40 years later.
So although I’ve been annoyed by some of the excessive adulation, I didn’t plan to write anything about the passage of Ted Kennedy. Then I read, in James Taranto’s Best of the Web Today, that a sympathetic biographer told a radio interviewer this week that Kennedy’s famous sense of humor extended to Chappaquiddick jokes.
I don’t know if you know this or not, but one of his favorite topics of humor was indeed Chappaquiddick itself. And he would ask people, “have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?” That is just the most amazing thing. It’s not that he didn’t feel remorse about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, but that he still always saw the other side of everything and the ridiculous side of things, too. (Update: Here’s the audio.)
Ted Kennedy was one of the most influential Senators in history, and though I disagreed with him on many issues, I recognize he was a passionate and effective advocate for his causes. My Christian faith teaches me to believe in forgiveness and redemption, and his career can be seen as an effort to atone for his appalling actions that night.
But surely true remorse — or even just common decency — would preclude making jokes about an incident where he put his political career ahead of a young woman’s life. If justice had been served, his path to redemption would have included a stay in prison. When he joked about it, he mocked justice.
Requiescat in pace, Edward M. Kennedy.
Requiescat in pace, Mary Jo Kopechne. She would be 69 years old.