Monday, August 31, 2009

Ted Kennedy Never Meant Sh*t to Me


There. I said it.

Also, I don’t care if you do…no, really, it doesn’t change the way I feel about you one way or another. His life & death, when it’s all boiled down, is actually rather insignificant, if you think about it the way I do.

Let me explain, at least, before you decide to hate me.

For me, it’s about the cold calculus of human suffering; human *being*

Ted Kennedy lived to be 77 years old. He embraced/battled alchoholism & clogged arteries. So, he outlived the “average” American, despite a decidedly unhealthy lifestyle. (Maybe that’s why he proclaimed “Healthcare Reform” as the fight of his life.)

Also, Kennedy is/was *rich*. I don’t mean, like, he had a lot of money that he worked hard for. I mean, he was landed gentry rich.

"Ted Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, was a savvy investor his whole life. Income from the various trust funds, real estate investments, and oil and gas leases he set up from the 1920s through the 1940s still yield income. He made most of his money, however, by purchasing retail giant Merchandise Mart in Chicago in 1945 for $12.5 million. Since then, it’s raked in hundreds of millions in revenue for the family. In 1998, the Kennedy clan decided to sell Merchandise Mart….Ted Kennedy received about $75 million….

Tax returns have yielded some insight into family funds as well. In the 1980s, Ted Kennedy’s income was shown to be about $500,000 a year. In 2007, his net worth was estimated to be as high as $163 million, based on campaign records." (slate.com/id/2226420/)


Most of My Heroes Don’t Appear On No Stamps

The life & death of some aristocrat are of little interest to me, especially since cancer took my Amma about 6 years ago. We could barely afford to cremate her (as per her wishes) & now have to store her ashes in an old cookie jar.

She worked her whole life to make life bearable for her kids & grandkids. She had an amazing ability to stretch a meal of corned beef & cabbage, & to adapt to a changing American landscape. I’ll never forget the way that she explained Transgender Identity to my Umpa. Something so far from her life experiences, from her upbringing in Dutch Harbor, Alaska in the 1930’s, yet so full of love & genuine compassion, if not true understanding, it makes me want to weep while I write this. She is not remembered by anyone who didn’t know her personally, yet her compassion was transcendent.


& I Can’t Tell You Who In the Hell Set Things Up Like This


It took the NY Times over 3 days to publish an obituary of June Jordan. If I were to create a short list of American Heroes & Warriors, she’d be on it. Her contributions to this American life are numerous & immeasurable, and she was officially forgotten before she was taken from us.

She was the first African American Woman to publish a book of political essays. The first. She made true friend of official enemies: going to Nicaragua, to Beirut, to Palestine. For this, these acts of solidarity and compassion, the NY Times refused to publish anything written by her.

There was some bitter irony to Barack Obama pilfering one of her signature lines “We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For” while he was on the campaign trail. Though Obama popularized it as a line, June lived it as a mantra. Or better yet, a declaration of war against anyone who was against the proliferation of human life.

And yet, who knows of her? Who will light an eternal flame to this Soldier?

Finally, the issue of Katrina and the lives of the vulnerable. Kennedy’s funeral fell on the 4th anniversary of Katrina’s touchdown. The destruction of Black life in New Orleans as a result of official government policy is well-documented fact. In so many ways, Katrina was the funeral for New Orleans as we have known it. Through no fault of their own, the aged, the poor, the marginalized people of this historic city were whitewashed out of the present. They now live, if they survived, in Houston, Atlanta, Alabama, Mississipi. They now live, if they survived, as aliens in a strange land. A land that has never wanted them. They live as the true embodiment of the American Spirit.

So, instead of mourning the $163 milliondollar aristocrat, in my own small way, I’m celebrating the lives of the people who have made my life what it is today.

MollyLou Cameron. Always.

June Jordan. Always

The People of New Orleans. Always.