Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Memento Mori

I didn't watch the DNC convention last night. I have a low tolerance for political conventions, and the first night generally seems to contain all the substance of the first hour and a half of the Academy Awards, which is to say not very much at all.

And I didn't really trust myself to remain charitable during the Ted Kennedy tribute and speech. To me, there is much to pity but little to admire in Senator Kennedy's life and work, and while the advent of his serious illness and the high possibility his remaining days on earth will be few are a reminder to pray for him, there seems to be little of worth in the spectacle of a premature political canonization for a man whose earthly life has hardly been a model of morality and goodness.

God can do wonders, of course, and Ted Kennedy could be moved to a sincere repentance and heartfelt reconnection to the Church and her teachings. Given that he's still shilling for the slicing and dicing of embryos to be used to "cure" juvenile diabetes (and probably, if he were honest about it, brain cancer), one can only shake the head and fold the hands, and beg God to have mercy on him before he draws his final breath.

The heyday of the Kennedy political dynasty was before my time. I wasn't born yet when JFK was killed, and though I've read about this powerful Catholic family and their role in American politics it wasn't ever a part of my experience. Ted Kennedy was already a rather old senior senator by the time I ever heard of him, and while my occasional interest in books of the "true-crime" genre lead to my reading a pretty good analysis of the dreadful Chappaquiddick affair even that was already a past and mostly forgotten--or at least, seldom discussed--matter.

In a sense, what happened to the Kennedys is what happened to so many Catholic families of the age: they stopped fighting against the evils of the world and sought compromise with it, instead. From abortion and contraception to ESCR and the killing of the elderly and handicapped, the Kennedy family got on board the Culture of Death express, and now, decimated, ennervated, weak and tottering, they cast shadows of skeletal grandeur when all that might have been decent and noble and admirable has been stripped away, leaving only echoes of long-ago good sentiments and high ambitions.

I'm sure Ted Kennedy feels a little cheated by fate. This was supposed to be a grand moment of closure, when the Democratic party ushered in a new era of racial cooperation by nominating a black man to be the President of the United States. Senator Kennedy may have seen himself sharing the dais, approvingly handing over the crown, to a new generation of Democratic voters, the text-message kids who want to change the world and have ordained Barack Obama to do it for them. He was probably planning to work closely with an Obama administration from his position of power and prestige in the Senate.

Instead, the talking heads on PBS have just suggested that Hillary Clinton may become the new "lion of the Senate," replacing ol' Ted--and Senator Kennedy will have to watch from the wings for however long God spares him.

We build up our kingdoms, and our dynasties. We amass our fortunes and count our grain in its harvest. We rub our hands with glee at how important and powerful we are--and then with the suddenness of candle-light extinguishing, we are gone.

Last night, Ted Kennedy faced an adoring throng full of people who cheered him just for coming. One day soon he, like all of us, will face Our Lord, and give an accounting for his actions in this world, and the admiration and respect he garnered during his life will count for nothing.

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