The Lion is Dead

Ted Kennedy

For those of us who remember Camelot, this is a somber final moment.

Ted Kennedy was the last of the brothers, and the only one who got to live out his life. He screwed up a few times, but I believe he made up for those during his 40 years in the United States Senate. He was a champion of civil rights, Americans with disabilities, immigration reform and health care reform.

Born to privilege, he spent his life defending the vulnerable. We are better off as a people for the laws he wrote, sponsored, fought for and got passed.

So long, Senator. Thank you for your service.

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8 Replies to “The Lion is Dead”

  1. I’m quite broken up by it. I’m glad he lived to see our idealistic, young, African-American president elected; sad that he died before his commitment to health care reform was fulfilled; and very sad for all of us left without him.

  2. Friend and I have discussed the difference between what Republican children of privilege and Democratic children of privilege–or ex-presidents, for that matter–do with their lives. In general, My People seem to try to better the lot of those who are worse off; the former seem to try to make as much money as possible and not do any actual work. All other criticism aside–and it is substantial, in many ways–he was among those people of privilege who try to help others.

  3. A lot is being said about healthcare reform being accomplished with Kennedy in mind. I wonder if the reform will give EVERY American — the rich, the poor, the high, the low — the options that Kennedy had in the last 18 months of his life: chemo, radiation, etc., etc. Seems to me he fought to stay alive.

    Or will the reform make us feel obligated — or actually make us obligated, whether we feel that way or not — to take the least-expensive alternative, i.e., a graceful, quick, cheap exit?

    I hope I will be able to take the cheap way out if I have a dreaded diagnosis. I’d like to pass on $50 or $60 to my loved ones. But maybe I’ll change my mind at the moment, and maybe I’ll want to emulate Kennedy — a person I admired very much during his lifetime.

  4. kStyle – I’m trying to be realistic — old guy, terminal illness, it had to happen eventually — but still I am having some emotional moments myself.

    Narya – Whenever I think about my place in the American Class System, I realize that I am lower class. I take some consolation in the fact the an ever-increasing number of us are also lower class, and that a few members of the upper class have enough genuine humanity and compassion to try to help. Kennedy’s noblesse oblige did not offend me. I think he found the right venue for his talents (the Senate), and I think he was sincere in his efforts.

    Caravana – You really need to turn off the radio when Rush Limbaugh is on. He is lying about the Death Panels, and he is laughing at you as he lights his cigars with thousand-dollar bills. If you admired Ted Kennedy during his life, perhaps you will consider that he might have been trying to last until it was time for Congress to make a decision on a health reform bill, that he might have wanted to influence the outcome, and cast his own vote on it. And maybe you don’t know what heroic measures were not taken at the end.
    And no, the reform will not give every single person the access to medicine that a rich person has today. But if it is done right it will give everyone a chance to see a doctor when they get sick instead of dying on the floor of an overcrowded emergency room; a chance for a screening and possible early detection of an illness that could be treated before it threatens life; a chance for poor kids to get vaccinations and dental care. That would be a good thing, wouldn’t it?

  5. I LOVE the image of Rush lighting his cigars with one-thousand-dollar bills. Thank you for helping me to laugh at Rush for the first time in a month. He’s such an evil villain!

  6. Indeed, all of those things will be good.

    But the question remains: In 20 years, say, will people in the U.S. still be allowed, or feel it’s OK, to fight with everything they have in terms of personal assets and insurance to stay alive in the face of a terrible prognosis? That’s what I was asking, although in clumsy fashion.

    Look: My COBRA insurance, the only insurance I can get because of having cancer last year, costs me $1,100 a month. It’s a good PPO policy and the reason I’m not dying right now. (The bills were over $80,000, which insurance knocked down to $5,000. Why couldn’t I “deal direct” and get it all for $10,000?) Yet I’m tempted to drop it and take a chance, because the premiums are ruining out my IRA.

    So I’m no rich person; I’m just someone who is wondering how 77-year-olds are going to die in 2029 (when I’ll be 82).

    Will the issue be whether a quicker death for geezers is part of the tradeoff for all the good things you describe? Will government-regulated insurance be unable to allocate all the money everyone wants?
    You know, to ask the questions does not mean I’m against the underlying principle of a Yes answer. I’m just wondering what we’re looking forward to.

    As for death panels, there is language in HR3200 about end-of-life counseling. The first use of “end of life” that I find is on page 426 on the bill, which can be downloaded (it takes a while). At a glance, though, it seems pretty safe to me; it seems mainly to be an encouragement for people to have living wills, DNRs, and that kind of thing.

    So I agree that the “death panel” descriptions are inaccurate, at least for now. Maybe in 200 years?

  7. Caravana – Your situation is yours alone, personal and subjective. I won’t presume to tell you how to behave when you get near The End. But our current system is being run by people and corporations whose primary interest is in making as much money as they possibly can. They do this by denying coverage for various reasons (this has happened to you), by dropping coverage when someone gets too sick, by writing policies with high deductibles (reducing the chance they’ll have to pay anything), by including “lifetime limit” clauses and by writing policies that are so convoluted that you can’t even tell if you are being defrauded.

    These companies are not delivering health care — they make their money mainly by blocking your access to health care. Every time they pay a claim it cuts into their profits.

    And — heaven forbid — if you get sick enough that your treatment exceeds their lifetime limit, your private insurer will simply walk away from you, effectively making the decision for you about how long you get to fight to stay alive. I have personally haggled with an insurance company for years over a few hundred dollars. If I’d had six months to live and the amount were hundreds of thousands of dollars, what do you think the outcome would have been? I would not have had to face a government “death panel.” I would have had no practical recourse.

    I would be dead.

    I’ll take my chances with a universal single-payer system, where the risk and the cost is spread across the entire population, where I can change jobs or get fired and still be covered, where the administrative costs are greatly reduced, where the money goes to medicine and not to hundred million dollar executive salaries, and where the carrier doesn’t have to spend huge sums on advertising to compete.

    Maybe in your last days you will want the hospital to use extraordinary methods to keep you alive a bit longer, no matter the cost. Maybe something could be included in a reform plan that would allow you to sign up for that and pay for it over the course of your life in increased premiums (taxes).

    Me, I want to go quietly, no fuss, no burden to anyone.

    Finally, you’re a smart guy and you know that to ask the question simply takes a bit of mud up from the bottom of the pond and stirs it around, creating a murky, frightening scum where once there was sweet clarity.

  8. Teddy Kennedy wasn’t perfect, but who is? I believe he spent most of his life making up for the mistakes he made — and he did it in such a way that his passing, even though it was expected, made me cry. We’ve lost a great American, and I can’t think of anyone alive right now who can step into his shoes. I’ll always remember him fondly.

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