Thursday, September 3, 2009

Heroism and Cowardice

According to a yahoo blurb, the late Senator Kennedy will soon have posthumously published book in which he expressed his regret about the Chappaquiddick incident.

This happened in 1969. He was driving a car with a former Robert Kennedy campaign worker, her name was Mary Jo Kopechne, and his car swerved on a bridge and fell into the Chappaquiddick River. Mr. Kennedy swam to safety while Ms. Kopechne drowned. Mr. Kennedy waited about 10 hours before he called police. He was found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident and given a light, suspended sentence.

I grew up around people very critical of the Kennedy's, and references to Chappaquiddick were, if not common, at least grist for their mill, the implication being that Mr. Kennedy was an unconscionable coward.

Maybe he was. But would I have necessarily performed heroic measures if I were in the same situation? Probably not. And if would, I assume it would be one of those "spur-of-the-moment" things where I weren't thinking about the consequences. I can even imagine myself being so stunned and guilty over the incident as to wait awhile before calling the cops.

Mr. Kennedy was probably wrong in what he did, and maybe he deserved the censures he subsequently received. But I'm not convinced I would have done differently.

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