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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 3, 2009 / 14 Elul 5769

What a summer of eulogizing flawed public figures reveals about society

By Michael Smerconish



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Forty years after the Summer of Love, the summer of mourning is coming to a close.


Ed McMahon. Farrah Fawcett. Walter Cronkite. Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Dominick Dunne. It's hard to believe they've all passed in a matter of weeks. None, however, have proven more complex in death than Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy.


Many people had a difficult time reconciling Michael Jackson's disjointed legacy in the aftermath of his passing. On one hand, he had been the most famous musician in the world, an icon who had entertained tens of millions since he was in grade school.


On the other, he died broke — financially and physically — a grown man who locked himself in a place called Neverland and invited young boys to join him.


In the hours after Jackson's death, I remember wondering where the most troubling part of his life — the allegations of child molestation — would ultimately fit into the coverage of his death. Specifically, how long would it take the obituary writers to mention those allegations?


I soon had the answer. The Los Angeles Times got there in the fourth paragraph. The New York Times four paragraphs after that. The Washington Post didn't introduce that aspect of Jackson's life until paragraph 19.


Ted Kennedy's legacy is similarly complex. He has been feted from both sides of the aisle since his death. And rightfully so. He came from an exceedingly patriotic family and dedicated almost five decades of his life to public service. While Michael Vick forced us to contemplate second chances, Ted Kennedy certainly showed what can be done when they are afforded.


But he was indeed a man of well-documented "personal and political failings," as the Boston Globe noted in the lead of its obit. None were more infamous or damaging than the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick. Their treatment? The Globe made mention of what transpired in the fifth paragraph of its obituary. The Associated Press and the New York Times waited for paragraphs 12 and 15, respectively.


I shouldn't be surprised that callers to my radio program have lined up on two opposing sides this summer. After Jackson's death, people were divided among those who dismissed him as a freak or a pervert, and those whose devotion to his music could overcome any question of morality or character. They left no room for any middle road. The question last week was similar: How to define Sen. Kennedy — by his legislative accomplishments or Chappaquiddick?


All of which spurred me to check the obituaries of other noted Americans whose lives — and legacies — were flawed.


This week, the Los Angeles Times took 12 paragraphs before mentioning former U.S. Rep. Gary Condit in Dominick Dunne's obituary. (Condit sued Dunne for $11 million after the writer had implicated the congressman in the disappearance of his intern Chandra Levy. They settled in 2005.)


The Washington Post first mentioned Watergate by name in the fifth paragraph of Richard Nixon's obit.


When Anna Nicole Smith passed in 2007, the New York Times discussed her drug addiction in paragraph eight.


I can't help but wonder when President Clinton's obituary will introduce Monica Lewinsky. How will Pete Rose's gambling admissions, Michael Vick's dog fighting, and O.J. Simpson's slow-speed chase stack up against the rest of their lives and accomplishments?


In broader terms, the question is this: How should we treat the conflicted legacies of our deceased icons?


I posed that question to Ann Wroe, the obituaries and briefings editor at The Economist and co-author of "The Economist Book of Obituaries" last year. It's a subjective standard, she told me, but one that depends on how significant an individual's crime or flaw really is. Wroe deemed Chappaquiddick a major one. The Lewinsky affair? "Really nothing much," she said.


"When I write an obituary I try to see it as much as I can through the eyes of the subject. And therefore, I tend to present these incidents as much as I can through the eyes of the person who's to blame for them," she told me.


"With public figures you have more license to dig up the past if you like. I think you should do so. It's made a difference to American history that, for example, Teddy Kennedy didn't become president. And why didn't he? Because he drove off a bridge."


Her words reminded me of something Walter Cronkite, who delivered countless obituaries himself before he was eulogized last month, once said. "Beyond being timely, an obituary has a more subjective duty, to assess its subject's impact. Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy were presidents who died in office. They were works in progress, but when a person lives long enough, history gains a sort of cooling off that brings perspective. It merely awaits the proper hour."


Unlike his brothers, Ted Kennedy lived long enough to allow us to gain that perspective on his life. And unlike Ted Kennedy, Michael Jackson did not.

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Previously:

08/12/09 It's time for cyclists and motorists to reconcile
08/05/09 Faces have changed, but vitriol remains
06/25/09 Fair comment or foul? Warm up the Muzzle Meter
06/08/09 Believability is key in crime-hoax villains
05/14/09 Did Hollywood inspire the meltdown men?
04/20/09 Let's give killers their due: Anonymity
03/12/09 Uninsured who can't afford medical care lose a lot more
02/06/09 My debate with Musharraf on hunt for bin Laden
01/29/09 Torture must remain an option
01/15/09 Making a case for suing Madoff
12/22/08 A difficult but rational chat about ‘plans’
12/17/08 Facebook epidemic: More than 120 million have joined, many too old for this nonsense
12/01/08 The high price of downsizing the news biz
11/14/08 Prescience on greed, arrogance of a system
09/29/08 Closer look at party lines
08/26/08 Obama's pick creates GOP opportunity
08/21/08 Fishing with the Angry Everyman
07/31/08 The perils of e-mail: Ponder, then click
05/22/08 Two very different sides of the Internet
02/12/08 Sublimely ridiculous suits
11/28/08 Cell phones cut out secondary circle of kinship
09/26/07 What do we owe those who have died in Iraq?
08/30/07 A Navy SEAL's gut-wrenching tale of survival
07/30/07 First it was a faux pas, now it's a new word


© 2008, The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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