The news out of Massachusetts was disturbing last Saturday: Sen. Ted Kennedy suffered two seizures and was hospitalized in serious condition.
As the hours passed and news spread of his improving condition, the tension eased a bit, although his condition as of this writing was still uncertain.
Anyone who loves America, and anyone around the world who loves freedom, should be praying for Sen. Kennedy’s swift recovery and return to work.
The reason is not just humanitarian but pragmatic: We need Ted Kennedy back in the Senate, fighting for us, now more than ever. As the lame-duck Bush regime enters its final days, we can expect that they’re saving a few nasty surprises for us, such as the complete destruction of our economy and our Constitution. And, if the opportunity arises, they might start another couple of wars just for the hell of it.
For almost half a century, Ted Kennedy has been the most dependable progressive voice in our Senate. Despite being born into one of the wealthiest families in the nation, he’s never stopped fighting for the disenfranchised, the hungry, the poor and the most hopeless among us.
He’s championed affordable health care and education reform for decades. There are millions of Americans who are living better lives because Ted Kennedy stood up for them and their rights.
Every child in America who goes to bed with a full stomach, in preparation for another day of quality education, can thank Ted Kennedy. Every person who lifts himself or herself out of poverty can thank Kennedy for helping make the transition a bit easier.
Children in Northern Ireland can live without fear of terrorist attacks because Ted Kennedy worked for peace in the region.
Union workers in America are still free to fight for equity in the workplace because Kennedy opposed anti-labor laws proposed by a variety of pro-big business Republicans.
Women still have the right to choose, in part, because Ted Kennedy has championed their cause and fought against activist conservative judges who want to rewrite the Constitution to fit their narrow vision of the world.
Kennedy’s personal story is, on balance, one to admire. He showed dignity, grace and composure when the nation grieved over the assassination of his brothers. His eloquent eulogy for his brother Robert remains one of the great speeches of the 20th century.
He’s outlived and outlasted almost all of his enemies, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan foremost among them. And while his dead brothers overshadow him in history, when the final chapter has been written, Ted Kennedy’s achievements loom larger than either of his brothers’.
Whenever his name is mentioned, there are those who mention the events at Chappaquiddick Island in 1969, when a young woman drowned after a car Kennedy was driving plunged off a bridge. Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended two-month sentence in jail.
Even if you believe the most sinister conspiracy theorists and their allegations that Kennedy was drunk and about to engage in extramarital sex with the young woman when the accident occurred, then tried to cover it up, there is still one simple fact. If Kennedy caused the death of one innocent person, that doesn’t even begin to compare with the number of innocent people who died as a direct result of the policies of Nixon, Reagan and the Bush cartel.
Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of innocent people in Vietnam, Iraq and elsewhere have died because of the policy of perpetual war we have lived in under Republican rule for the last 40 years.
Now, in the final years of his life, Sen. Kennedy can look back with pride at a lifetime of achievement in the Senate and for the American people. Few lawmakers have had as much of a direct impact on the lives of everyday people as he has had.
Few people have been such a passionate advocate for freedom as Ted Kennedy. That’s why we need him back at work as quickly as possible.
In just a few more months, we will have shed ourselves of the shackles of oppression George Bush has placed on our democracy. And we will have a president who believes just as strongly in freedom and in peace as Ted Kennedy.
There will be a lot of work to be done in order to repair our broken nation, even with a president who believes in justice. President Obama will need plenty of help in the Senate — and Ted Kennedy needs to be there to give that help.
Get well soon, senator. And thank you for your service to the United States of America.