I want to honor a great statesman, and one hell of an Irishman today. Ted Kennedy. Now I am sure it comes as no shock to many of my readers that I am a Lefty. The legacy of the Kennedy’s has inspired me for a long time. Their story is uniquely American, and uniquely Irish. It is truly a marvel that the grandsons of an Gorta Mór, shot so high and so fast into the arena of American public service and politics. I am a big supporter of a Public Option for health care reform and can’t help but feel somewhat disheartened at his passing. I hope that in the end the bill bears his name.
One area of his life that is sometimes overlooked are his stances on freedom of religion, and the separation of church and state. As a Celtic Pagan, I appreciated his views and ideals on American spiritual life. Some of you may not be aware that when his older brother Jack ran for President it was considered politically impossible for an Irish Catholic to run for such a high office. Jack Kennedy proved them wrong. I wonder if someday, they will say the same thing about a Pagan running for office, and be proved wrong as well. In one of his best speeches entitled, Faith, Truth and Tolerance in America, Ted Kennedy summed up his feelings on this issue with the eloquence of an Irishman:
I am an American and a Catholic; I love my country and treasure my faith. But I do not assume that my conception of patriotism or policy is invariably correct, or that my convictions about religion should command any greater respect than any other faith in this pluralistic society. I believe there surely is such a thing as truth, but who among us can claim a monopoly on it? There are those who do, and their own words testify to their intolerance….
Religious values cannot be excluded from every public issue; but not every public issue involves religious values…. Second, we must respect the independent judgments of conscience. Those who proclaim moral and religious values can offer counsel, but they should not casually treat a position on a public issue as a test of fealty to faith…. Third, in applying religious values, we must respect the integrity of public debate. In that debate, faith is no substitute for facts….. Fourth, and finally, we must respect the motives of those who exercise their right to disagree…..
In short, I hope for an America where neither “fundamentalist” nor “humanist” will be a dirty word, but a fair description of the different ways in which people of goodwill look at life and into their own souls.
These sentiments, and the sentiments of other Americans before him, make it possible to practice my spirituality as a Celtic Pagan today. I encourage you to listen to the entire speech or watch it. His life had it’s share of problems and grief, but he leaves this world for a Tír na nÓg of his own making. I will drink a parting glass tonight, and pray for his swift journey to the Otherworld.
Farewell Teddy! May we gulp Guinness together someday!