Thursday, August 27, 2009

The last lion

[Warning: I wrote this post yesterday in a bit of a state. Saying that it starts out scattershot would be an understatement. Hopefully as I try to tie it all together now, I can come through with an ending that justifies this type of digressive indulgence, but I wouldn't put money on it without pretty good odds. [Yep, woulda' lost that bet as it turns out]]

I couldn't have done it if I'd planned it to be honest [gone for a run at the exact time that Teddy K's funeral motorpool would be coming down Columbia Road]. It just happened that, as it's starting to feel like a normal, supremely awesome late August New England day, I've been going walking/running earlier. Late August, which when all goes to plan is the beginning of an early and extended fall season that is the envy of fall and just generally seasons everywhere, is so amazingly wonderful at this time of year it's almost painful in it's perfect cocktail of weather and place. It's still warm but a cool warm and by the ocean where I live (yes, I can walk to a beach from my house [and though I haven't swum there yet this year, I bet the water temp is approaching non-polar bear club style swimming {as New England's ocean waters don't warm up too terribly much until August at the earliest}]) there's often either a nice breeze or a blustery wind. Late autumn the winds pick up, but in these still early days of the late New England summer it couldn't have been sweeter.

Course it was a bittersweet wind/ errrt. Nope. I'm not gonna get all sentimental about Teddy's passing. Edward Kennedy had been a senator since before I was born. He fought his last presidential battle with Carter in 1980 over Jimmy's handling of health care when I was a mere two year old. And so Reagan won, possibly because of Teddy's protracted and fractious fight with Carter, and instead of universal health care we got the principle of deregulation and a tax cut (much of which Reagan himself rescinded when he saw how big the deficits were getting) and secret wars in America del Sol.

And now, when the philosophy of deregulation has just about bankrupt the world (and did bankrupt Iceland) and the cost and availability of health care in this country is abysmal, the last lion of the senate passes on to the next after fighting brain cancer for a year and a half, no doubt watching his hope ebb away that meaningful health care reform would ever get done amidst the sophistic dirty tricks of the politics of stonewalling.

Am I saying that Rush Limbaugh killed Ted Kennedy? Not really, but, you know, he wasn't helping the situation. Seriously, though the shrillness of the tone means only one thing, evasive tactics (which big B undoubtedly unintendly encouraged by setting artificial time limits and then letting Congress work it out in a scramble), there is still the chance to have this discussion. And it's a discussion that goes to the question of choice (that lies, really, pretty close to the heart of Jest), and the question is essentially a trick one.

Choice is in some ways many times an illusion. You don't always make your own choices. Life makes many of the important choices for us (or a lot of us) in a lot of different (sometimes bone-crushingly) ruthless ways, and that life is the socio-eco-nationo-global matrix in which we struggle to make these 'free choices'. This web that then goes deep in the other direction, inward, into psychological and neuropsychological and then biochemical layers of mind/brain psyche, and somewhere in the webbed matrix expanding inward and outward from this subjective self-soul is this freedom that we, even in and amongst the physical laws that oversee the chemical reactions in the brain, somehow, in and of all that and the rest, we control the direction of this neurochemical flow and by extension the avenues of consciousness and so can then make these free choices.

And Teddy made some bad ones early in his life. He went racing around, possibly and possibly probably drunk, on little ragged island roads. And it went badly. And, well, those of us over a certain age know what that was all about (and certainly everyone here in Mass). He offered to resign, but the voters of Mass overwhelmingly told him to stay put. He flirted with the idea of the presidency up until that fateful '80 campaign for the dem nom. And then he went to work. Committing himself to a life as an old-school style senator from a hard nosed New England state (and if you don't think per capita Mass ass kicking potential isn't still in full effect then you've never spent much time in the cradle of American democracy that is Boston [Remember, Don Gately was a north shore boy] [We had the real tea party, and we didn't have a damn corporate sponsor either {okay, I'm getting worked up. Let's take it down a notch.}]).

So, I'm getting carried away with myself here. And trying to figure out a way to wrap this whole thing up nice and neat. Well, this'll have to do 'cause I'm done with this nonsense.

It quickly occurred to me as I was walking up to the abandoned and shuttered former concession stand where I like to stretch before running that something was going on, and it then quickly occurred to me also that the reason every single cop in Massachusetts was there and huddled in groups of three or four at every intersection from Dot Ave onward was that Edward Kennedy had finally succumb to brain cancer. Well, that and the lack of overtime in the non-discretionary police budget since the financial meltdown almost set off another depression (I feel like I should repeat this fact as much as possible as it really does feel like we're already all 'Glad that's over, now we don't have to think about the flaws in our way of living anymore and can just go on as before').

The sidewalks were littered with people all waiting for the Kennedy motorcade. I hadn't thought of coming out for that but only just to go for a run, but almost perfectly as I got to my stretching spot the motorcade came roaring through. First, 8,000 (give or take 7, 550 or so) motorcycle cops came screaming down the road, peeling off one at a time and blocking the parking inlets along the beach. Then the hearst. Followed by a line of limousines a mile long. As that black oversized sedan came slowly crawling along past where I was standing, the reality that Ted's body was just a stones throw away and that this man who was mythic here in Mass was now lying rigor mortisly stiff in a flag draped box in the back kind of hit me. And I felt sad.

Which is probably more common to my life than I care to admit, but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about the last lion of liberalism. Or some such thing. Obviously, I'm can't stay on topic for even a second today, so...

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