The Kennedys

May 21, 2008 by susan
Obama and Kennedy, sharing a laugh

There is a such a Kennedy-esque frisson to Barack Obama that my spirits are soaring almost as high as my fears. His speech tonight in Iowa hit all the right notes. He has his mojo back.

So it's an especially sad irony that we get the news of Ted Kennedy's brain tumor on the same day that Obama wins the majority of pledged delegates. And it has a truly creepy book-ends feel to it -- the emergence of a young, Harvard-brainy presidential long-shot into the fading light of the Lion of the Senate, the last surviving brother of a family stalked by murder and early death.

Say what you will of the Kennedys' private lives, their public lives were inspiring, their commitment to social justice unwavering. Teddy was the least of the lot, strugging as the younger less-bright brother, but he never gave up his fight for the Wellstonian little guy, and over the years he matured into one of the most able and respected members of the senate.

Which brings me to the fear thing. As I watched Obama in Iowa tonight, and the video clips of him in Portland, I was struck by his reedy vulnerability, by his eery resemblance to the JFK who asked us what we could do for our country back in 1960, when I was 14 years old.

And so, like so many of us, I'm fearful. At lunch today a friend's phone rang, and I heard her say, "Oh no. That's terrible news." and I remembered all those other moments when we heard the terrible news -- the murder of JFK, MLK and RFK. And of the plane crash that claimed Paul and Sheila Wellstone, our friends and colleagues.

This time it was the news of Ted Kennedy's brain tumor, which is more understandable than murder, but no less sad. And it reminds us all of the delicate thread that holds us.

Tonight Barack Obama pitched over the top and into the winner's circle, despite Clinton's lopsided victory in Kentucky. It's all but certain that he'll be the one making the acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, which is scheduled to take place on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.

For us oldies, the stars are aligning in a powerful frightening way. I hope Ted Kennedy is there to see the speech. I hope Barack Obama is there to give it.

Posted in


BobbyG (not verified) | May 21, 2008 - 10:45am

"I hope Ted Kennedy is there to see the speech. I hope Barack Obama is there to give it."

I'm with ya there. Two things worry me [1] Hil and Bill will find a way to steal the nomination notwithstanding a complete process outcome favoring Barack, and; [2] someone will try to take Obama out. I was watching him and his wife work the crowd in Iowa last night after his speech, and it made me nervous.


susan | May 21, 2008 - 7:44pm

Exactly. I'm less worried about Hil and Bill. I think they're just really struggling with the reality of the endgame and need a way to exit. It's painful to watch.
Your second point is what worries me. He has such a casual ease in crowds -- to be honest, so did Bill -- but Barack's so much more, well, black. Distrusted. Muslim. Wack-o-Wright Christian. Elite. Pointy-headed. Other.

I'm in northern Michigan now, and very few people are smiling at my Obama pin. The lines, if I can elicit any, go like this: "Yeah, I hate Bush, won't vote for McCain, but I don't trust this Obama fella." There's a very firm head shake as they say that, almost a shudder.
Early on in the campaign, I asked Barack's staff if they were worried, if they'd taken measures to protect him. They told me they were aware of the problem, and yes, there was a very high level of security. Two weeks later, he accepted secret service protection, based on threats he'd received. This news confirmed my fears. He's a man with a target on his back.
Like I said, I hope Ted Kennedy will be at the convention. I hope Barack and his family will be there too.


betty (not verified) | May 23, 2008 - 12:40am

let's chip in and buy kevlar longjohns for barack and his family.

i have the same fears and hesitate to ever say them aloud.
really it's one of my biggest fears, along with some variation of the hanging chad/stolen election scenario.

maybe if this prayer thing works we should all pray for their safety. and do stuff to stop racism whenever we can. that would be better than kevlar.


paul miller (not verified) | May 23, 2008 - 5:38am

anyone in Minnesota, or the United States for that matter, notice Rove was subpoenaed? the strib gave it a full paragraph on page A12 under DC news - what a great paper!