Monday, August 31, 2009
Ted Kennedy's Search for Redemption: Mission Accomplished
Over the past week we've heard a great deal about Ted Kennedy's accomplishments as an elder statesman, an unexpected patriarch, and an adventurer. What has struck me most about Ted Kennedy's life, which has played out in the periphery of all Americans' lives, even those disinterested in politics, is his search for redemption. It is, what I believe, inspired the Senator's unique brand of liberalism.
This past weekend the Kennedy family revealed that the ailing Senator had sent Pope Benedict XVI a letter asking for the pontiff's prayers as he battled the cancer that ultimately killed him. The senator wrote: "I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines [...] I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I’ve worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health-care and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war. Though I’ve fallen short through human failings, I’ve never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teaching of my faith.”
In that letter, Kennedy lays bare what it really means to be a liberal. At least for me. His acknowledgement of his own human flaws and his belief in the attainability of God's forgiveness through good works is inspiring. As a gay man of faith, I can't tell you how many times I've had a similar dialogue in my head and in prayer: I know I'm imperfect, but I believe in God, I try to do what's right by family and fellow man, etc. Ted Kennedy used the name and privilege that happened to him by chance and used it to spend his life championing human rights. Yes, mistakes were made along the way, but I expect that not a day went by when that man didn't try to make up for these.
To the gay community, Ted Kennedy was more than an ally. He was someone who saw the blatant wrongness in a system that robs any American of their basic rights and he was able to bridge the gap of faith, politics and public opinion to cry foul and demand change. For that he is to be honored, and today, as a new workweek begins, I implore our representatives to pause and reflect on his example and focus on the business of fixing our system.