Monday, June 8, 2015

Chappaquiddick’s ‘Black Waters’ / Same-Sex Grammar / A Knight – Lady, No Less – in Shining Armor?

Chappaquiddick – Weird how the brain functions when you’re approaching the age of decrepitude, as Mr. Gripes may be experiencing. One moment, a memory that’s been buried 20 leagues under a sea somewhere, resurfaces with all the original emotion and shock intact. 

I happened upon a novel, ‘Black Water,’ by Joyce Carol Oates, which is – pardon the cliché – a ‘thinly veiled’, fictionalized portrayal of the events leading up to the drowning death of a campaign worker, Mary Jo Kopechne, in a submerged car driven off a wooden bridge by Senator Ted Kennedy in July 1969.

The entire evening is channeled through the thoughts of Ms. Kopechne – beginning with her attendance at a summer lawn party on Chappaquiddick Island, her subsequent meeting up with the late-arriving senator, and an ensuing walk on the beach with him. She’s smitten, of course, and later accepts a ride in his car to a ferry heading to the mainland, and a hotel tryst that was to be the inevitable conclusion of the evening.

In the car, Ms. Kopechne realizes the senator is drunk, or at least very much impaired, and is driving too fast along a rutted, damaged road that was supposed to be closed to automobiles. Intimidated a bit, she doesn’t raise any concerns to the senator. Soon the speeding car is slipping sideways onto a sandy road shoulder, and drives off a tiny wooden bridge, into the ‘black waters.’

From then on, the reader is privy to the panicky, increasingly incoherent thoughts of a drowning Ms. Kopechne, upside down in a sunken automobile, trapped in her seat, her right knee severely injured, but never giving up hope and the belief that her hero-senator would save her. To the last sentence of the novel, she’s certain he’s coming for her, and will lift her out and up to the surface. Then ‘she dies,’ Ms. Oates writes suddenly, and the story’s over.

At the book’s conclusion, Mr. Gripes recalled that Mr. Kennedy got off scot-free. All the Kennedys-on-Cape-Cod power and clout were brought to bear after this event, and somehow the Senator managed to emerge unblemished, his ass not in jail, and his political career intact.

After a little research, I present the rest of that night:  after the accident, Mr. Kennedy immediately extracted himself from the car, but made no attempts to rescue Ms. Kopechne, or seek any assistance. Instead, he abandons the car, and Ms. Kopechne, and begins to walk back toward the party. At some point, later in the evening, still without contacting the authorities, he swims across the sound – a considerable physical feat, incidentally – and returns to his motel on the mainland. It’s now a couple of hours after midnight, 3 or 4 hours after the accident, and still no one’s been contacted. He stays there for the remainder of the night.

The car, sunk in 6 feet of water, and Mary Jo Kopechne’s body were discovered early the next morning, before Kennedy had made any contact with island authorities. In fact, it wasn’t until Kennedy spoke to his lawyer around 10:45 the following morning that calls were made to report the accident, nearly eleven hours after his car ran off the bridge. Unbelievable. 

In the end, Kennedy was given a two-month suspended sentence for leaving the scene of an accident, with no mention of the dead woman in the affadavit. [Another curious fact: Ms. Kopechne was buried one day after she died, and no autopsy was performed.]

The entire event seems right out of ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’, doesn’t it? Later he runs for President of the United States, with allusions to the crime mysteriously never brought up, even by opponents. Seems crazy all these decades later.

If this had occurred today? Posted instantaneously would be 100,000 vitriolic messages on the internet and social media. The hue-and-cry would have compelled the police to haul Kennedy to jail, and arraign him on very serious felonies; we’d have for our viewing pleasure a trial that would have made OJ’s seem as insignificant as a parking-ticket dispute in traffic court.  Just imagine the press presence. Plus, Kennedy’s political career would be finished.

When Senator Kennedy died, once again there was very little mention of his complicity in the death of Ms. Kopechne.  I don’t recall any, in fact.

Instead, he was eulogized, glowingly, in speech after speech, as one of the great Senatorial ‘Lions’ in American history. 

Ted Kennedy, in a supreme moment of crisis, turned out to be nothing but a quivering, fearful little boy, hoping that all of this was a very bad dream, and would just go away. Some lion. He was nothing but a shameful coward.

My views on what’s permissible in terms of human conduct and relationships coincide splendidly with those of that wise man, Mark Twain, who famously wrote, “I don’t care what people do, as long they don’t frighten the horses.” [I’ve paraphrased a bit]. Live and let live, be it a homosexual coupling, heterosexual, transgender, transvestite, whatever: at my age, I’m too grizzled and gray to give a damn in what manner anyone manages to bring some serenity and contentment to this often disappointing life.

BUT, my equanimity about same-sex relationships only goes only so far. I read a couple of weeks ago of a physical dispute between a gay couple one evening in Houston. Nothing unusual these days about news of a domestic disturbance, of course. The argument, ending in the arrests of, and injuries to, both parties, was between two professional female basketball players, who happen to be married to each other. [Subsequently, these players were suspended by the Women’s National Basketball Association, which runs the league, for a few games.] Still nothing to get all hot and bothered about, Mr. Gripes reasoned.

Mr. Gripes’ equipoise regarding this affair, however, was shattered by one two-word phrase in the newspaper account: ‘Ms. Griner and her wife were released early from jail…’ You see, Mr. Gripes, who once toiled as a typesetter, and is almost Prussian in his obsessive adherence to the rules of correct grammar, cannot possibly abide by that ‘her wife’ phrase. It just sounds dumb and ignorant. [Granted, ‘his husband’ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue easily, either.] 

It’s often stated that languages never are finished, and certainly they can’t be. Change is the one constant all over the world, and language must adapt to these changes. There’s nothing static about a language ever. In that vein, I fervently hope new words and expressions are created to fill the vacuum of language around same sex relationships. Because, as long as Mr. Gripes continues to bitch and moan on this earth, he will never use ‘her wife’ in a meaningful sentence. Enough is enough.

A  Lady Knight in Shining Armor?  ‘Who Hates Barack Obama the Most?’ That was the unspoken, essential qualification which, up to a couple of months ago, every prospective Republican candidate for the Presidency 2016 had to adhere to. Not any longer. Now, Republicans, with their detestation of Obama certainly still intact, have altered the calculus: These days, it’s ‘Who can beat Hillary?’ Whoever comes out ahead in that contest will win the nomination.

In that vein, Mr. Gripes, who finds the Donald-Trump-Rand-Paul-Gov-Bridgegate-of NJ-George-Pataki [!!]-Bobby Jindal-Mike Hucklebee clown-car array of Republican candidates blissfully hilarious, now presents his selection of the one individual who has the best chance – by far – of beating Mrs. Clinton. Jeb Bush sure as hell isn’t going to beat Hillary, and neither will Scott Walker or Mario Rubio. Losers. No chance. Only one could do it…

Carly Fiorina…

Why? For one, the electorate will not be inundated with a thousand stentorian ‘feminist’ shibboleths that Ms. Clinton’s operatives will surely view as a winning strategy. There’ll be no ‘It’s the Year of the Woman,’ or ‘Be Part of History: Elect the 1st Woman President’, and, thank God, we’ll be spared about a million tedious-to-the-point-of-narcolepsy ‘Women’s Empowerment’ television ads. You see, Carly Fiorina, unfortunately for Democrats, is a woman, too. Bill and Hillary, where Mr. Gripes comes from, we call that checkmate. 

Another thing: Ms. Fiorina is no shrinking violet, and does not suffer fools easily. Mr. Gripes was struck how quick on her feet she has been in dealing with the smarmy press, who are always looking for those ‘got-cha’ moments. She’s obviously very smart, and it looks to me that she’ll do very well in any Presidential debates; in that setting Ms. Fiorina could crush Ms. Clinton, who is too wedded to rehearsed, drab sound bites.

Also, Ms. Fiorina has had a very successful career in the private business world – she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, so she’s had a lot of experience dealing with a huge staff, bureaucracies, budgets, planning and financial crises, executive skills she’ll need as President. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has worked only in government for the past 40 years: she’s been on the public dole forever.

However, there is one major problem regarding the prospect of Carly Fiorina emerging as the Republican candidate: in a political party that still is contesting abortion rights, gay rights, and equal pay issues, as if we’re still living in the 1950’s, is this party ready for a woman to run under the GOP banner? A female President may be simply too ‘radical’ an idea for all those conservative Republican voters in state primaries leading up to the nomination. The notion that only a man can and should be President may be too formidable to be dislodged.

But, Mr. Gripes would relish a Fiorina-Clinton battle. It’d be a lot of fun.

Jim Israel
Mr. Gripes
June 4, 2015