More 'Kopechne as sacrificial lamb' stupidity

Ethel C. Fenig
Senator Edward Kennedy's (D-MA) agonizing death of natural causes at 77 seemed to have dislodged the thinking of his acolytes, especially in the media, who gushed over his (supposed) good while gliding casually over his many (fatal) flaws.

Ok, most people aren't perfect so perhaps some of this was understandable but even many of Kennedy's fans were at least somewhat appalled when blogging twit Melissa Lafsky airily suggested that the late Mary Jo Kopechne might have felt her sacrificial death at Kennedy's hand "was worth it" as it enabled Kennedy to repent, mature and become "the lion of the Senate."

But now acclaimed morbid author Joyce Carol Oates, in fancier words, suggests the same in Britain's Guardian. Pondering his later career as "Kennedy's redemption from the depths" (ghoulish pun intended?), she sees his despicable actions regarding Kopechne as a "fortunate fall;" his failure to immediately notify authorities as a "felicitous move."

She even asks "Yet if one weighs the life of a single young woman against the accomplishments of the man President Obama has called the greatest Democratic senator in history, what is one to think?"

In Ms. Oates' moral landscape, apparently Ms. Kopechne was an insignificant unloved cipher who had no potential, no talents and was a drag on society, in contrast to the last surviving son of American "royalty"; thus the whole purpose of her life was to propel Ted Kennedy to fulfill his.

It is often in instances of the "fortunate fall", think of Joseph Conrad's anti-hero/hero Lord Jim as a classic literary analogy, that innocent individuals figure almost as ritual sacrifices is another aspect of the phenomenon.
Yet if one weighs the life of a single young woman against the accomplishments of the man President Obama has called the greatest Democratic senator in history, what is one to think?

The poet John Berryman once wondered: "Is wickedness soluble in art?". One might rephrase, in a vocabulary more suitable for our politicized era: "Is wickedness soluble in good deeds?"

This paradox lies at the heart of so much of public life: individuals of dubious character and cruel deeds may redeem themselves in selfless actions. Fidelity to a personal code of morality would seem to fade in significance as the public sphere, like an enormous sun, blinds us to all else.

Argue Ted Kennedy's Senate legacy if you will but let the innocent victims of Kennedy's haughty arrogance rest in peace.




Senator Edward Kennedy's (D-MA) agonizing death of natural causes at 77 seemed to have dislodged the thinking of his acolytes, especially in the media, who gushed over his (supposed) good while gliding casually over his many (fatal) flaws.

Ok, most people aren't perfect so perhaps some of this was understandable but even many of Kennedy's fans were at least somewhat appalled when blogging twit Melissa Lafsky airily suggested that the late Mary Jo Kopechne might have felt her sacrificial death at Kennedy's hand "was worth it" as it enabled Kennedy to repent, mature and become "the lion of the Senate."

But now acclaimed morbid author Joyce Carol Oates, in fancier words, suggests the same in Britain's Guardian. Pondering his later career as "Kennedy's redemption from the depths" (ghoulish pun intended?), she sees his despicable actions regarding Kopechne as a "fortunate fall;" his failure to immediately notify authorities as a "felicitous move."

She even asks "Yet if one weighs the life of a single young woman against the accomplishments of the man President Obama has called the greatest Democratic senator in history, what is one to think?"

In Ms. Oates' moral landscape, apparently Ms. Kopechne was an insignificant unloved cipher who had no potential, no talents and was a drag on society, in contrast to the last surviving son of American "royalty"; thus the whole purpose of her life was to propel Ted Kennedy to fulfill his.

It is often in instances of the "fortunate fall", think of Joseph Conrad's anti-hero/hero Lord Jim as a classic literary analogy, that innocent individuals figure almost as ritual sacrifices is another aspect of the phenomenon.
Yet if one weighs the life of a single young woman against the accomplishments of the man President Obama has called the greatest Democratic senator in history, what is one to think?

The poet John Berryman once wondered: "Is wickedness soluble in art?". One might rephrase, in a vocabulary more suitable for our politicized era: "Is wickedness soluble in good deeds?"

This paradox lies at the heart of so much of public life: individuals of dubious character and cruel deeds may redeem themselves in selfless actions. Fidelity to a personal code of morality would seem to fade in significance as the public sphere, like an enormous sun, blinds us to all else.

Argue Ted Kennedy's Senate legacy if you will but let the innocent victims of Kennedy's haughty arrogance rest in peace.