Friday, October 9, 2009

The Aristocratic Attitude, Part 2

“President Barack Obama is enlisting Hollywood celebrities including actress Rosario Dawson and musician Will.I.Am to draw attention to his health care overhaul agenda.” (Breitbart, 7 Nov 2009) That is more of the same nonsense, expecting us to listen to celebrities (self-appointed aristocrats) instead of thinking for ourselves. We should ignore everything those celebrities say.

Now on to today’s topic.

One difference between our aristocracy of politicians, entertainers etc. and the official aristocracies in places like England is that theirs is hereditary. In most cases, the U.S. aristocrat cannot hand the title down to his heirs. Children of our movie stars seldom become stars themselves unless they have at least some acting ability. Children of our politicians do not automatically replace their parents in congress, the governor's mansion, or the White House. There is one partial exception.

Consider what happened when two senate seats were vacated, first in New York when Hillary Clinton resigned to become secretary of state, then in Massachusetts when Edward Kennedy died. In both cases there were plenty of people who wanted someone from the Kennedy family to take the available senate seat. After all, a Kennedy had represented Massachusetts for over 50 years and Robert Kennedy once represented New York. In fact in many New York wanted Caroline Kennedy appointed even though she had no discernible qualifications beyond her family connection. To her credit, she made no effort to get herself appointed.

That of course is in addition to the other Kennedy family members who have held office, often receiving many votes on the basis of their name instead of thoughtful consideration of qualifications. And our vice president has publicly stated that he wants more Kennedys in office! (Appearance on NBC, 27 Aug 2009)

All that sounds like desire for a hereditary aristocracy, something our constitution wisely prohibits.

The family has my sympathy for the death of Senator Kennedy. My father died of a similar cancer so I have some understanding of what they are going through. However neither sympathy nor family connection is a good reason to grant someone political power. It is dangerous to elect our representatives for any reason other than their ability and trustworthiness to do the job right. Whether a candidate is in the Kennedy family or not is completely irrelevant to his suitability for office. We should reject dynasties and aristocracies as dangerous to the country.

Such aristocracies can also be dangerous to the aristocrats. Frequently people will not hold them accountable for their actions. Instead many will make excuses for them and defend them, as some are doing now with Polanski. Psychologists call such excuse-makers “enablers” because they help people continue their unacceptable or dangerous behavior. Such enabling encourages them to think of themselves as not subject to the same rules and consequences as normal people. They develop an attitude of “It won't happen to me, “ or “I'm better than the normal person, therefore I can get away with this.

Of course we cannot know this next for certain, but I suspect that such an attitude was complicit in the 1997 skiing death of Michael Kennedy. Tragic though that accident was, it was also avoidable had young Kennedy and his companions just followed the rules expected of most skiers. They were playing football on the slope and the ski patrol warned them to stop. They continued to violate the rules. I've never skied at Aspen, but at other places where I have skied the offenders would have been kicked off the slopes as soon as they repeated the offense, maybe even on a first offense, depending on how dangerous the violation was. Yet the Kennedy party continued to violate safety rules and was not ejected.

Had the Kennedys been removed from the slopes, Michael Kennedy would probably still be alive today.

There's more. Young “John-John” Kennedy was killed in the crash of a plane he was piloting. That was a clear case of pilot error; he was in over his head. Pilots I know have told me that he was flying “too much plane.” His limited experience did not qualify him for the aircraft he was driving nor for the conditions he faced when he went over the water. Why was he flying beyond his qualifications? I doubt we'll ever know for sure, but it is quite likely that his privileged upbringing led to an aristocratic attitude. He may have believed that he didn't need the long experience that normal pilots required.

There is a sidelight to the Michael Kennedy death that might also bear on this. At the time of his death he was separated from his wife who caught him in bed with the babysitter. The indications were that the affair began when the girl was only 14 and thus included statutory rape. However authorities were unable to collect enough evidence to prosecute. Regardless of the girl's age, that continues a Kennedy legacy of sordid sexual affairs, a behavior pattern quite contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church to which they claim fidelity. Some Kennedys act like they are immune not only to human law but even to God’s law.

Putting all that together, we get a picture of the Kennedy family as a de facto aristocracy in this country. That aristocratic status harms both the country and the family. Citizens should reject the aristocratic trappings of the Kennedys and concentrate instead on qualifications.

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