The “Luck” of the Kennedys

For a progressive and a sentimentalist, one of the advantages of living in the Boston television market has been its coverage of Senator Kennedy’s last public appearance. He was one of ours, and he did a lot of good for a lot of individuals and families here, apart from his many services to the welfare of all Americans. I’ve been glad to sniffle through many an anecdote from the people who came to witness the hearse carry Teddy’s casket from Hyannisport, through Boston’s Government Center and the North End streets where he first politicked, to lie in state at his brother’s JFK Library in Dorchester.

People like the couple whose son was killed in Iraq, and Kennedy not only sent a note of condolence, he found out the soldier’s father was having problems obtaining his citizenship — problems that magically disappeared within two weeks of Kennedy’s intervention. And when the couple started a scholarship fund to honor their son’s memory, Teddy sent a personal check. People like the Republican parents whose son’s last words from Iraq lamented the lack of decent body armour; they contacted Kennedy “despite our doubts” and the Senator successfully fought to change the Pentagon rules protecting Blackwater and its private-contractor ilk by denying civilian donations toward ‘non-approved’ equipment. “Teddy did more for us than any of the senators we contacted who voted for the war,” they said.

People like the 9/11 widow who’ll be standing with the Kennedy family overnight, at the coffin wake. It wasn’t just that he contacted her and the other families immediately, she said, or the “dozens of little things, stuff that was only important to us” that he’d done in the years since. “He walked me through those first terrible days, taught me how it was possible to go on, when I thought I would never get through it… He told me I could, and I knew I could trust him, because he’d had to — he’d done it himself.”

*****
And then I made the mistake of looking at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, hosting the smug and disingenuous Hanna Rosin, whose back-handed ‘tribute’ to Teddy’s public service went beyond the usual Wingnut Welfare Wurlitzer “Chappaquiddick today, Chappaquiddick tomorrow, Chappaquiddick forever” sniping to “the bigger problem of the Kennedy women”:

“If they were lucky, like Eunice Kennedy Shriver, they managed to install themselves at the head of virtuous nonprofits—“charities,” we used to call them.” — Goodbye, Kennedy Women, Double X, August 26

Rosin is treating Eunice Kennedy Shriver the way she laments Joe Kennedy did — as a mannequin, a non-person whose highest ambition was to worm its way into a figurehead position. This is a grave and willful misunderstanding, which denigrates not only Mrs. Kennedy Shriver’s lifetime of hard work, but the worth of the Special Olympics and the Special Olympians.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver was not “lucky”, she was brave.

She worked just as hard and as long for her “virtuous nonprofit” as Teddy did in the Senate, starting in 1961 when she pressured her brother Jack into authorizing The President’s Committee on Mental Retardation, which developed into what is now Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development within the NIH. She was supposed to be another Barbara Bush, someone who’d be content supervising an appropriately large brood of future (male) politicians, a Junior League matron breaking her “fiercely competitive” golf and tennis matches at the country club with martini-and-cigarette lunches. But while she never challenged her father’s fierce chauvinism to the extent of pursuing political office herself, she never forgot how her older sister Rosemary had been traumatized, locked away, and lobotomized in a misguided attempt to “protect her from herself” — and to protect her family from the stigma of having produced a mental defective.

Over the last twenty years or so, there’s developed a certain willed historical oblivion over just how hard it was to be, or to bear, a “retarded” child in America in the 1960s. The unchallenged Social Eugenics bias taught in schools of medicine & social work since the 1890s mandated that the “best” treatment for such “defective” children was institutionalization, where the little unfortunates and their families would be protected from the stigma and social opprobrium natural to their pitiable condition. And since there was no hope of a cure, or even a meaningful life for the young victims, the diagnostic lines between “mongoloidism”, organic brain damage, autism, epilepsy, and even cerebral palsy were blurred — if the child was going to be warehoused until it died, hopefully before wasting too much of its family’s or the states resources, how much did an exact label matter? Things hadn’t progressed much since Jane Austen wrote of a family (much like her own) that “had the bad fortune to have a very stupid, troublesome son, and the good fortune to lose him before his twentieth year.” I was born in the mid-1950s, and I can remember the ladies in my blue-collar Irish-American parish discussing whether it was “fair” for Eunice to keep dragging up the “old scandal” of Rosemary’s tragedy — because it risked damaging the political & marital chances not only of Eunice’s own children, but of the Irish-Catholic tribe in general. I know people of my generation who were never permitted to meet, or sometimes even to know about, their “imperfect” siblings until another family crisis unveiled their existence. Just as adoptive parents were warned never to reveal that their child wasn’t “really” theirs, the parents of “defective” children were advised, “Put it in an institution. Tell the neighbors it died. It wouldn’t be fair to your other children, if you try to provide all the extra care and expense it’ll need.”

People today occasionally wonder, or complain, that “When I was growing up, there didn’t used to be so many special needs kids in every neighborhood.” Of course they don’t always use the polite “special needs”, because that phrase didn’t really exist a generation ago. There didn’t “used to be” so much mention of racist privilege or sexual harrassment or domestic violence, either — not because it didn’t exist, but because the concepts were so much an accepted part of everyday life that “we” didn’t have the words to describe them, even if we wanted or needed to. Changing the world to require, and accept, such a new vocabulary was a lifetime’s hard work for many, many people, a few of whom were powerful enough and prominent enough that we remember their names when honoring the work of all their unheralded fellows. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, despite Hanna Rosin’s attempt to reduce her, was never just a ‘Lady Bountiful presiding over an afternoon’s diversion for the little retards.’ She spent her life working hard, and encouraging (demanding) thousands of others to work just as hard, to give the forgotten and powerless a little more space in the world. And it is for her hard work and by the success she won, not for herself but for 3,000,000-and-counting people she never met, that she will be remembered. At its best, this was the real “Kennedy luck” — not that they were born rich and lived privileged, but that Teddy, Eunice, Jack, Bobby, and the rest of the clan sought out the hard work that would make a real difference in the world.

72 replies
  1. 1
    Linkmeister says:

    Lady Bird Johnson was contemporaneously applauded for road beautification (a worthwhile endeavor, don’t get me wrong) while Eunice Shriver was patronized for that odd Special Olympics project.

    Then there was her husband’s Peace Corps, which was derided nearly as much as Americorps was 40 years later.

    The Kennedy family has had a good sense of what the Preamble to the Constitution says (“promote the general Welfare,”) and the family obligation for public service has served both them and the country well.

  2. 2
    mark b says:

    The folk who lecture us on responsibility have no control; who lecture us on values have no core; who lecture us on faith have no souls. If my existence were so empty, I’d be barking mad and frothing at the mouth, too.

  3. 3
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Anne, this is another in your impressive collection of beautifully written, thoughtful, and moving essays. While you don’t front-page maybe as often as I’d like, I invariably find your pieces worth waiting for. Thank you.

  4. 4
    Blue Raven says:

    Anne Laurie, you have done it again. Fine, sharp, intelligent outrage.

  5. 5
    Yusifu says:

    Lovely reply to Rosin’s nonsense. But to be fair to Austen, Dick Musgrove isn’t meant as a portrayal of disability–he’s described as self indulgent but as having low-normal intelligence. He was killed while serving in the navy.

  6. 6
    Robertdsc-iphone says:

    Bravo!

  7. 7
    bend says:

    Annie, I don’t know your writing terribly well- I’ve always come her primarily for John and Tim- but I have to say, this is the best thing I have read on Teddy’s passing. It is also the first Balloon Juice post I have ever emailed to family and friends.
    Really, this made me cry.
    Thanks

  8. 8
    bend says:

    Anne, not Annie. Sorry, I’m an idiot.

  9. 9
    Capn America says:

    Give ’em hell Anne!

  10. 10
    MikeJ says:

    @Capn America: Give ’em the truth and they’ll think it’s hell.

  11. 11
    Ruckus says:

    I have not been a huge fan of the Kennedy clan over the years. But it is only because I have not followed their accomplishments closely enough. They have gone no only the extra mile, they have gone many extra miles. Two brothers shot down in the prime of life, in political life, just because they wanted to bring equality to all Americans. They are wealthy and did not need to spend their entire lives trying to make people’s lives better. But they did and do. Never out in front shouting look at me. In the trenches fighting for not for themselves but for all of us. If we had a few more politicians and families like them in this country, this world would be a dramatically better place. As it is, it is a better place for the Kennedys being here, even with all their human failings. They should always be remembered as patriots, all of them, people who loved this country and what it really stands for. They may have been born into a family of privilege, and even enjoyed that privilege, but they do not act like privileged people.
    I am old enough to remember JFK being elected and assassinated. I watched and listened to Bobby Kennedy and was amazed at the depth and direction of the man. Ted lived up to that, his brothers would have been proud. And the women, as Anne has so wonderfully written, have been every bit in the same mold.

    One of Robert’s Kennedy’s well know lines sums up this whole family:
    ”Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

    These words could be the motto of this entire family.

  12. 12

    “I was born in the mid-1950s…I know people of my generation who were never permitted to meet, or sometimes even to know about, their “imperfect” siblings until another family crisis unveiled their existence.”

    I am of an age with you, Anne, and I hadn’t thought about this for many years. But that is indeed how it was.

    Thanks for reminding us that it took hard work by people like Eunice Kennedy Shriver to change how we regarded and cared for these children.

  13. 13
    simonee says:

    As others have said, this is a beautifully written piece.

    It makes me incredibly sad that our current political climate makes it such that we may never be able to have public servant like Senator Kennedy in the future.

  14. 14
    wilfred says:

    Once they’re dead, everybody has a right to be remembered for their best. Period. The best response to the skanky behavior of Kennedy’s enemies is to not act the same when one of their heroes dies. To not speak ill of the dead is always good sense.

    I liked his politics for the great part, although on the issue nearest to me he was a disappointment to say the least. He went as far as a person born into great wealth and privilege can go, and I mean that as a compliment in his case. It’s lamentable that we still live in a society that makes noblesse oblige an option rather than a duty but to his great credit he put more back in than he ever took out.

    Ma’salaama.

  15. 15
    Makewi says:

    Hannah Van Buren was a total bitch. Seriously. Used to get drunk on a foul mixture of Wine and Japanese whale oil and berate the kitchen staff mercilessly for their failure to keep the silver in “a proper state”. Reportedly she’s the only person Andrew Jackson was ever afraid of.

  16. 16
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    Wonderfully written tribute.
    My husband has a younger sister with down syndrome, she was born in 1965, the youngest of eight. It was suggested to her parents that she be institutionalised. The older kids wouldn’t hear of it, let alone the parents. I sort of understand of what you speak.
    Can someone advise me the best place to go to find out about Rosemary. Being an aussie I don’t know many details about the Kennedy clan. Thanks

  17. 17
    Xenos says:

    Thank you, Anne, for an outstanding tribute. So many people have indulged in so much hatred against Teddy for so long that they can not even recognize, much less appreciate, the good that he has done. They have made themselves monstrous. I have some work to do in that area as well, as anger over the last few years has probably overcome my better judgment as well.

  18. 18
    NicoleW says:

    Just had to delurk to compliment you on a really thoughtful, interesting piece — one of the better ones I’ve read in the wake of Ted’s death. Thank you.

  19. 19
    MikeJ says:

    @Debbie(aussie): Wikipedia has an article on her, but the usual caveats about truth being defined by people with the least to do (other than make sure their favored edit remains) apply.

  20. 20
    geg6 says:

    Debbie(aussie): An easily accessible book about all the Kennedys is “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. She tells all the gory details about Rosemary, including how and why her father had her lobotomized. Very sad stuff. And Anne Laurie, this is great stuff. But I would like to add that the person who was most responsible for that urgent sense of public service that all the Kennedys had was their mother, Rose. She was, IMHO, the one who instilled that empathy and higher purpose into her kids. She is why they became more than just ruthless political creatures (a trait they all shared and which was Joe’s legacy to them) but took the “service” component of “public service” to the highest level. She was a hero who never gets the credit she deserves. It’s always Joe who is mentioned as the driving force behind his kids’ ambitions. And that is probably true. But it’s Rose who made them channel that ambition for good.

  21. 21
    Aimai says:

    Brava, Anne Laurie,

    This is a great piece. Truly great.

    Aimai

  22. 22

    […] between a wingnut and a normal, caring human being. Contrast this to Tom Coburn’s suggestion to that woman in the townhall seeking his help with i…: People like the couple whose son was killed in Iraq, and Kennedy not only sent a note of […]

  23. 23

    Diane Rehm had a great show about Eunice and the Special Olympics right after her death. I highly recommend you listen if you have not heard it. Everyone involved with the Special Olympics loved Eunice Shriver. She was a remarkable woman.

  24. 24
    Kirk Spencer says:

    I’ve been reading a lot of right-wing blogs recently to see what all is said. Yeah, there are some bad ones, but there is also an interesting thread through many.

    He’s respected for having the intestinal fortitude and ability to work effectively with other Senators regardless of party. He’s hated for being in the other party, and so sometimes using that intestinal fortitude and ability against things the Republicans wanted.

  25. 25
    WereBear says:

    Thank you for such a moving tribute to the whole Kennedy family, and especially one great woman.

    I too, credit Rose. It sure wasn’t Joe Sr.

  26. 26
    IndieTarheel says:

    Awesome piece. I’ll be sending this one round for sure.

  27. 27
    Lee Hartmann says:

    When I still lived in Boston, my family had an immigration problem and Kennedy’s staff was incredibly supportive and helpful. That attitude starts from the top.

    No single politician has done more to make this country a better place during my lifetime. Thanks for writing this.

  28. 28
    Leelee for Obama says:

    Late to the Party, Anne. Excellent post as usual-the Kennedys have always been like family for me-you made me cry a little and smile a lot- Thanks.

  29. 29
    kay says:

    Rosin’s piece is sloppy and poorly reasoned.
    You “install yourself” as head of a non-profit when you start one.
    She’s defending the Kennedy women against the evil Kennedy men by sneering at and belittling the charity work that they did?

  30. 30
    zoe kentucky says:

    Lovely, Anne, just lovely.

  31. 31
    Violet says:

    Thank you, Annie. Beautiful piece. The Kennedy’s worked so hard for all of us, not just on the easy tasks, but on the hard ones too. We are all better for it. Thank you for the moving tribute.

  32. 32
    Fulcanelli says:

    Very interesting and thoughtful piece Anne Laurie. Very well done.

    The only other modern day, multi-generational political dynasty we have to compare the Kennedys to is the Bush family. And look at the difference in what was done for the everlasting benefit of average Americans.

    Patrick Kennedy is one of our RI congressmen, and since Ted Kennedy’s passing I’ve been wondering if this sobering event will help him leave his addiction and it’s unfortunate consequences behind and motivate him to pick up the family torch and light the right wing’s sorry ass on fire in the future. I’m hoping.

  33. 33
    R-Jud says:

    This is a very lovely piece. It’s on a par with this one from Sarah Vowell last year.

  34. 34
    HRA says:

    Anne you have given me a great gift of one more exceptional piece of well reasoned and written insight on Ted and Eunice. This, I must add, was moments after I read my emails where our resident anti-liberal had sent the garbage floating out on the web against the Kennedys. I should have learned my lesson by now and not opened them up.

    Thank you

  35. 35
    chopper says:

    @wilfred:

    Once they’re dead, everybody has a right to be remembered for their best. Period.

    since when?

  36. 36

    Brilliant piece – I facebooked it.

  37. 37
    Sputnik_Sweetheart says:

    I went to the the JFK Library last night to pay my respects. I had assumed that it would be mostly people who would have been old enough to experience “Camelot,” but I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the crowd. There were many there that were my age (twenties) and I even saw a few high and middle school kids (some with parents, some without). Some people carried signs and flowers. I was most moved by a Latina who was carrying a sign that said “Thank you for all that you did for US Immigrants.”

  38. 38

    geg6:

    I absolutely must agree with you about Rose’s pivotal role in giving her family a public service mandate to go with Joe’s drive. The contrast with Barbara Bush could not be greater.

    The word that isn’t used enough IMHO in talking about either Kennedys or Bushes is “aristocracy”. Both families are, bluntly, aristocratic: they acquired great power by the usual dubious means, then were faced with the problem of how to raise children who were going to start at the top.

    One reason the Bush family has such a, shall we say, spotty record is that they bought into capitalism in a way the Catholic Kennedys did not. Free-market capitalism and hereditary wealth *should be* philosophically opposed — inherited wealth is the opposite of a level playing field, after all. The way aristocrats reconcile them in their minds is by thinking that they have in some way *earned* their unearned wealth, that they really *deserve* it. The Kennedy ethos (which is both Catholic and Massachusetts Puritan) is that wealth is both gift and duty: where much is given, much will be asked.

  39. 39
    Keith G says:

    And then I made the mistake of looking at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, hosting the smug and disingenuous Hanna Rosin….

    I drop by Sully’s place since we disagree on several issues and I want to intake a wider view of current events. But the hateful Ms Rosin has left me feeling I can never go back.

  40. 40
    BC says:

    Re: Eunice Shriver and Special Olympics – remember, she did not set out to build a big, overarching program that the Special Olympics became. She started out trying to help some kids with special needs – and not only mental limitations, such as Downs Syndrome, but with physical limitations as well – and it started to grow organically because she was meeting such a need. She was tough in that she had expectations for these kids that she didn’t just get mushy sentimental with them, but prodded them to strive and be the best they could be. Sorry – badly worded – but we do tend to oversentimentalize people with disabilities and not expect them to do anything but exist. She taught them they had abilities to go beyond what anyone thought they could.

  41. 41
    Cervantes says:

    Someone wrote:

    To not speak ill of the dead is always good sense.

    So … what would you say about Adolf Hitler?

  42. 42
    Juror #7 says:

    Delurking to join the chorus of kudos, Anne. Thanks for helping to wash away the bad taste of the Rosin piece, which I made the mistake of reading yesterday.

  43. 43
    EarBucket says:

    I’ve quit reading Sullivan’s blog over the summer. The idiots he’s got filling in for him just made it really painful to slog through. I’ll probably pick it up again when he comes back.

  44. 44
    asiangrrlMN says:

    Anne Laurie, this is beautifully-written. Thank you very much.

    @wilfred: I respectfully disagree. The truth is more important than a positive spin.

  45. 45
    Lee says:

    And then I made the mistake of looking at Andrew Sullivan’s blog,….

    I’m not sure when his blog became a steaming pile of crap, but it definitely was not his guest bloggers that started the downward slide.

  46. 46
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @EarBucket:

    I’ll probably pick it up again when he comes back.

    I won’t. His choices of sub-bloggers says something about the man that he only infrequently reveals. He’s more of an IGMFU type than he portrays on his blog.

  47. 47
    Librarian says:

    Another thing I love is all these right wingers going on about how Ted loved to work with Reagan and other Republicans, how they used to go out for a beer after a hard day in Congress, and how those days of bipartisanship are over, because of all those evil libruls who won’t be bipartisan and do what ever the GOP wants anymore.

  48. 48
    aimai says:

    @ Cervantes, up above,

    “What would you say about Hitler?”
    Well, I don’t see anything wrong about listing what he did, while acknowledging that he was adored by his fans, probably very nice to puppies, a vegetarian, and kept a well groomed mustache. Thers over at Whiskey Fire has a very apt post up about this http://whiskeyfire.typepad.com.....meday.html

    where he points out that civility is important in some contexts and merely a cover for hierarchy and power and abuse of the truth in others. We ought to choose to be civil–if by that we mean discreet–in front of the dead person’s loved ones, or where they are likely to see us speaking ill of hte dead. But we have a duty, as well, to the truth if that person and their goals and acts are something that we have been harmed by.

    As for Kennedy–the problem the right wing is having is that in order to attack *his project* they have to attack *the man.* Because if they actually had to list the things he had done, legislatively, and their real results for real people in this country he’d look pretty damned good even to their own followers. While by attacking *the man* and his flaws and foibles they can attempt to subsume his undeniable body of work under the heading “liberal hypocrisy” or something.

    Compare and contrast what an honest evaluation of Strom Thurmond would look like? He built roads, schools, and bridges for the white population in his state. He stood out against integration and civil rights for his own black constitutents and he denied the existence of his own black daughter for the majority of her life. Uncivil? No, merely factual. The Kennedy story goes the other way: he stood up for the poor, the minority, the damaged, the injured, the worker, the immigrant. He had many legislative accomplishments that were intended, though they may not always have worked, to create a better, stronger, more educated, more fair, more just, more loving society for all children and adults regardless of their race or political identity. All his acts were *inclusive* rather than *exclusive.* And he also drank a lot and made some mistakes and led an untidy personal life.

    aimai

  49. 49
    SGEW says:

    Great piece, Anne. Not just because of the tribute to the civil spirit of the Kennedy family, or the needed antidote to Hanna Rosin, but for this:

    People today occasionally wonder, or complain, that “When I was growing up, there didn’t used to be so many special needs kids in every neighborhood.” Of course they don’t always use the polite “special needs”, because that phrase didn’t really exist a generation ago. There didn’t “used to be” so much mention of racist privilege or sexual harrassment or domestic violence, either—not because it didn’t exist, but because the concepts were so much an accepted part of everyday life that “we” didn’t have the words to describe them, even if we wanted or needed to. Changing the world to require, and accept, such a new vocabulary was a lifetime’s hard work for many, many people, a few of whom were powerful enough and prominent enough that we remember their names when honoring the work of all their unheralded fellows.

    Yes. Yes. This needs to be said more often, and loudly.

    [Also: I don’t care what everyone says about Sullivan’s glibertarian tendencies; his writing on torture and the rule of law is moving, accurate, and essential.]

  50. 50
    Skepticat says:

    @geg6: You make a very good point about Rose’s influence. She also was a great political benefit, brought home to me when I was doing television commercials with the senator for another congressman. I was nearly trampled to death by a herd of little old ladies eager to talk to Senator Kennedy, all asking “And how is your de-ahh mothahh, Senator?” He treated all of them a bit like his mother, too, with personal attention and gentle teasing.

  51. 51
    tisalaska says:

    Great article. Senator Kennedy clearly had his demons and moments of personal failure. Who doesnt. He and his family paid a terrible personal price for success. At the end of the day he should be celebrated for his huge contribution to our country and we should be nothing but grateful of his service and sad at his passing. These are not footsteps you fill easily. Rip Ted Kennedy.

  52. 52
    Xanthippas says:

    I’m probably going to make someone mad when I say this, but there is a certain sub-set of feminists who are not content that women in general should have more choice in their personal lives, but rather belittle the choices of women who fail to meet their standards of approval, and demean women who they deride as “attachments” to powerful men. Women such as Hanna Rosin, that is.

    Also, she wrote a very silly article attacking breast-feeding because she was mad that some people she didn’t know weren’t receptive to her admission that she was going to stop breast-feeding her child after a month. I’ll save for a more appropriate post why her attack on breast-feeding is ridiculous, and note simply that the Atlantic is going downhill if they think that their women writers are useful only for penning columns that serve as therapy for their personal lives (see Sandra Tsing Loh, for another example.)

  53. 53
    Angela says:

    Anne- What a beautiful tribute; thank you for writing it.

  54. 54
    Persia says:

    Just beautiful.

  55. 55
    Will says:

    Thank you for this piece. I found that “Kennedy Women” piece at Sully’s so upsetting and reductive last night, and couldn’t put my anger into the proper words. You’ve done it here.

  56. 56
    Mnemosyne says:

    Thanks to Eunice Kennedy Shriver and people like her, my cousin has been able to get a job and live on her own because she was viewed as a person of worth despite her developmental disabilities who deserved all of the help and training she’s received to let her do these things. I am always painfully aware that, had she had the bad luck to be born just one generation previous, she would have spent her life staring at a wall in an institution and not become the wonderful, talented, funny person that she is.

    Somehow I’m not surprised that Hanna Rosin thinks that people like my cousin are so disposable that helping them live better lives is a job for a dilettante who doesn’t want to do real work.

  57. 57
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    The Kennedy women were all kinds of remarkable. I had the great good opportunity to meet (very briefly) Eunice Shriver, Pat Lawford and Jean Smith back in the fall of 1960 when they were doing a JFK campaign blitz in Chicago. I was just a kid of 18, too young to vote in those days, and from a Republican Nixon-supporting family and community — but the intelligence and energy and passion those three sisters communicated made a powerful and lasting impression on me. A decade later when I started getting active in the women’s movement, I think I often held an image of the Kennedy sisters (especially Eunice) in my mind alongside the Steinems and Abzugs.

  58. 58
    neil says:

    Anne –

    This is wonderful. I am now officially a fan.

  59. 59
    SGEW says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I am always painfully aware that, had she had the bad luck to be born just one generation previous, she would have spent her life staring at a wall in an institution and not become the wonderful, talented, funny person that she is.

    And all of us have the good luck to live in a time where we have the benefit of a society with wonderful, talented, funny people like her. Best wishes to your cousin.

  60. 60
    R-Jud says:

    @Xanthippas:

    the Atlantic is going downhill if they think that their women writers are useful only for penning columns that serve as therapy for their personal lives

    I’ve noticed this at a lot of places recently. The Guardian springs immediately to mind. It’s pretty depressing.

  61. 61
    Louise says:

    A wonderful essay.

    If only Hanna Rosin could read it and feel ashamed of herself. The former, sure. The latter? Unlikely.

  62. 62
    Joel says:

    Hanna Rosin is truly pitiful. It’s like she took a page out of Kaus’ handbook on exodus from Slate.

  63. 63
    forked tongue says:

    You mean Sarah Palin wasn’t the first person in America to stand up for special-needs children???

  64. 64
    John says:

    Wonderful, terrific post. Thanks

  65. 65
    goblue72 says:

    @Xanthippas: I used to subscribe the Atlantic – back when it was still based in Boston, back when it used to publish quirky, interesting general interest stories like articles on “are most cancers caused by virus”, stereotype threat as the reason minorities perform poorly on standardized tests, or the idea that the wilds of the “New World” were actually well-tended game preserves of the First Nations peoples, etc.

    Then some right-wing nuts bought the magazine, moved it to DC and turned into a boring, pendantic, fact-challenged libertarian/right publication focused on the “issues of the day”.

  66. 66
    KRK says:

    Great post, Anne. Thanks.

  67. 67
    Xanthippas says:

    Then some right-wing nuts bought the magazine, moved it to DC and turned into a boring, pendantic, fact-challenged libertarian/right publication focused on the “issues of the day”.

    I still like the Atlantic and I think they publish many worthwhile pieces. But I have a problem with a few of their writers, like Hanna Rosin, Sandra Tsing Loh, Caitlin Flanagan, and Robert Kaplan with pieces about how we’ll fight the coming war with China or the death of the “American warrior spirit.”

  68. 68
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @SGEW:

    [Also: I don’t care what everyone says about Sullivan’s glibertarian tendencies; his writing on torture and the rule of law is moving, accurate, and essential.]

    This. But goddamn, has his blog deteriorated into a whole lot of nonsense this summer in a major way. Honestly, his writing on the Bush regime’s torture program is the only reason I have started visiting his site again the past few days.

  69. 69
    Joel says:

    @Xanthippas: Agreed with all of those, but Megan McCardle tops my list, for her sneering, preening, douchebaggery unrivaled by anyone short of King Douchebag himself, Mickey Kaus.

    And while I enjoy their writings on relevant topics, I could do without:

    Coates’ posts on video games and the civil war
    Fallows’ posts on aviation

  70. 70
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    Thank you to those with suggested reading for this ignorant aussie.

  71. 71
    lumpenprole says:

    Once they’re dead, everybody has a right to be remembered for their best.

    When Rumsfeld dies, I’ll be thinking, “God, that guy was truly awful, when he was at his best.”

  72. 72
    Batocchio says:

    Thanks for a great piece.

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