Friday, August 28, 2009

Oration at the funeral of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (subject to approval by the GOP)

[Rush Limbaugh has declared, somewhat improbably, that Ted Kennedy "started the age of hate" in America. And various right-wing talkers have warned that anyone to the left of them must not improperly attempt to turn Kennedy's death into any sort of political event.

Hm. So it's the funeral of a popular and storied political leader, but his supporters are not supposed to "politicize" it. Seems to me there must be some sort of precedent for a situation like this. . . .

Conservatives have never handled irony very well; perhaps obituary remarks such as this modest example might slip under their radar. And it's a reminder that there is at least one instance on record in which this sort of thing did work.]

Friends, members of the family, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans:

(Can you all hear me? Yes? Thank you.)

I've come to bury Senator Edward Kennedy today, not to risk political controversy by praising his life and works.

We live in a tabloid world, where the sins of celebrities are endlessly recirculated, while whatever good they've done quickly becomes yesterday's news. If that's so, then let it be the case with Senator Kennedy, too. Because Rush Limbaugh has told you Senator Kennedy started the age of hate in America. And if that's true, it's a terrible thing, and certainly Senator Kennedy has paid the price for it.

And so it is under the watchful eye of Rush and the other leaders of the right--for Rush is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men--that I have come to speak at Senator Kennedy's funeral.

Flawed as he was, Senator Kennedy exemplified a sense of civic responsibility that scarcely exists anymore among the privileged class. But Rush Limbaugh says he started the age of hate; and Rush is an honorable man.

He worked tirelessly to help the oldest and most vulnerable among us to live a life of reasonable comfort and dignity. Was this more of Senator Kennedy's hate?

When the poor sought a decent wage for a day's labor, Senator Kennedy stood with them. If that's hate, it's a very peculiar kind. Yet Rush Limbaugh says he started the age of hate. And Rush is an honorable man.

When his presidential campaign failed, he didn't go into sulking retreat from public life; he accepted the voters' judgment, continuing his work in the Senate on behalf of the poor, the sick, and the marginalized, for three more decades. Was this more proof of Senator Kennedy's hate? Rush Limbaugh says it was. And Rush is--say it with me--an honorable man.

I'm not here to argue with Rush Limbaugh and his minions. But I am here to say what I do know.

Ted Kennedy was the final avatar of an era when, however imperfectly, government could inspire Americans to look for what was best within themselves and their country. Why should we pretend now that his life--and his death--have no political meaning?

Look at where we are today: Angry and confused voters stampede town halls, their heads filled with misinformation and unreason--at whose instigation? And to whose benefit?

It's as if a part of what was good in us all died with Senator Kennedy, and now we must find a way to get it back, if we can.

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