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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What To Do About Teddy

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Today's news that Senator Ted Kennedy has a malignant brain tumour is, if nothing else, a surprise. Although Kennedy is understandably keeping the details private, the diagnosis itself and the reactions of his Senate colleagues leaves little doubt but that Kennedy is dying. Six months, two years, whenever the end comes his life has unalterably changed course, the end line no longer hazy and somewhere in the distance as it is with most of us but clear and growing larger daily.

The news of his condition is, of course a challenge for him but in a smaller way it is a challenge for we who have opposed him and his politics for so long, as well. The temptation for dealing with someone whose time is growing near is to do what the media and his supporters certainly will: issue encomiums, speak glowingly of all his achievements and generally not allow a discouraging word to be heard. The temptation for those of us who have disagreed with him for so long, often powerfully disagreed with him, is to lash out with vituperation and invective. But is important that we not give in to such natural instincts. This is what the Left does. When conservatives become ill or die the Left lashes out with the kind of bile and hate that almost boggles the mind. Remember the Daily Kos and Huffington Post when Jerry Falwell died or whenever Dick Cheney has some cardiac complication. We have to be better than that.

But that doesn't mean that we have to now pretend that Kennedy is someone other than who he was. A cheater in school, a cheater in marriage, Kennedy committed manslaughter and treason, he destroyed the reputations of good people, he was a hypocrite, he...the list of his personal failings and sins could go on for pages. As could the list of the abysmal, destructive policies he has husbanded into law throughout his career: every bad immigration bill since the sixties, minimum wage increases that damage the poorest of the poor, tax hikes, bad nuclear policies, bad environmental policies, the expansion of government into more and more areas of our daily lives. Kennedy has had a large part in all of it.

But conservatives believe in personal responsibility and that means believing in the in exercise of self control. And we can't give in to the urge to revel in Kennedy's impending suffering and death. A successful society of free people requires that they control their more base urges. Ted Kennedy is a bad man but the time to make him pay for his crimes in this world has passed. He has a family that loves him and decent people should have compassion for them at this time. Ted Kennedy can't be made to pay for the wrongs he has done in this world any longer. Soon he will pass on to the next where someone greater than we are will take a fuller measure of him and deal with him in a more just way than we ever could.

Our duty is to listen to the better angels of our natures and wish him well. It may be hard to do but it is also right. Our prayers go out to him and his family.

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