To the Editor:
A few weeks ago I wrote a letter [Insulting TV detritus, July 31] criticizing the documentary the Vineyard. I mistakenly called it the Vineyarders (I guess I “erd”). In the online comments section I was appropriately taken to task for that, which was justified. However, in my letter I also said that I thought that the Kennedys were demeaned and that an important part of history was denigrated by one of the actors who was seeking to meet a “JFK.” This statement was met by several of the most vitriolic comments. I’m not sure where this hatred of the Kennedys comes from, but, of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion.
I don’t know how history will treat the Kennedys. They certainly had their faults, but they made many contributions to the nation and paid a heavy price for their service. I’d like to note a few instances where I believe the country benefited from having a Kennedy in the positions that they were in.
I have been alive during every administration since Franklin Roosevelt, and I’m confident that there are few who would have handled the Cuban missile crisis as well as JFK. Indeed, if some of the more recent residents of the White House were in office, either World War III would have broken out, in which case no one would be reading this newspaper, or we would have capitulated and we would be reading this in Russian. It is also hard to argue that, if not for JFK’s commitment to science, the space program would have been delayed for many years.
As attorney general, Robert Kennedy was an ardent supporter of civil rights and social justice and fought against corruption in labor unions. Throughout his career he was an advocate for the poor and the discriminated.
Unfortunately, assassins’ bullets saw to it that we will never know what the accomplishments of either JFK or RFK would eventually have been. Would they would have been among the greatest leaders in American history, or just mundane?
There is little doubt, however, that Ted Kennedy’s legislative record in the Senate, encompassing health care reform, the rights of those with disabilities, the rights of consumers, workers, children and women, fairly well dwarfs the total accomplishments of the current crop of members of Congress.
We have heard about the moral failures of these men, the dalliances, the philandering. Certainly up here we remember Chappaquiddick. But, there have been many leaders with such failures, both in this country and in others, that have nonetheless done important things for their nation. For example, FDR may have had his ethical lapses, but there can be little debate that the United States would not have survived World War II without his leadership.
I suspect that no one will be convinced by these modest arguments. Perhaps it’s just better to leave it in the words of the Bard: “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.”