Camelot Fade To Black: Patrick Kennedy Retires


Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) Rhode Island


When I was young, I had the good fortune of seeing the stage play of Camelot in an early Boston run. I was probably 10 years old at the time, an impressionable youth with a love for imagery.  As you might expect, I was mesmerized by this, my first experience of the performing arts. 

Camelot was as real to me for those few hours spent in that theater. But when the show was over, the cast took its bows and left as the house lights came up, I wondered where Camelot went? The stage was empty. It had all been a mirage. As I rode home in the back of my parent’s car I was filled with the experience, but it was tinged with a sadness, for down deep, I knew that the Camelot I had seen didn’t really exist. It was the state of mind it put me in that sustained us all for that brief moment in time.  That time was over and I felt empty. 

Camelot, as a musical and as imagery, became a phenomenon, one linked to the magic of the Presidency of JFK.  We were filled with hope for the future. And when he died, I was once again faced with the fact that Camelot didn’t really exist. It was the state of mind we were in with a youthful, exuberant President suddenly taken from us. 

Bobby Kennedy emerged as the standard bearer for the Kennedy family. Did we dare believe in Camelot again? Many of us did. And it seemed that his popularity would sweep him into the White House. His appeal was broad based (a term we didn’t realize, at the time, had a second application). Just as we got our hopes up that Bobby would take the reigns of the country and lift us all back to the magic of Camelot revisited, he was taken from us. The emptiness I felt burned its way into my heart as it did with so many others. Still in my late teens, there was a lesson learned; not to believe in imagery, but rather search for (and acknowledge) reality

 As a society, however, I think we’ve fallen lazily into the effortless comfort of worshiping imagery rather than substance. Is there any other way to explain the 40 year career of Ted Kennedy? How else does one explain Kennedy continuing to  get re-elected time and time again? The people of Massachusetts conveniently looked past his endless character flaws, from Chappaquiddick  to his womanizing and drinking. Character meant nothing. 

A younger generation of Kennedys came upon the scene. Mostly the children of Bobby or Ted. The vast majority of them have seen their political careers overshadowed by their personal problems of drug abuse, drinking and simply boorish behavior. There was little character to observe. 

The rose colored glasses that were strapped to my head in the late 60s have long since been thrown out. I stopped looking at the Kennedys as royalty after the 1968 death of Bobby and then Chappaquiddick the following year. 

So we are now being told that Patrick Kennedy, the third child of Ted and Joan Kennedy, will not seek re-election to the House of Representatives, representing Rhode Island. It would be easy to take a few parting shots at Patrick. By the time Patrick came along, it was more like, “Oh, God… not another Kennedy!” And he lived down to the reputation. But, somehow, I’m just not interested in taking any cheap shots. Patrick is choosing to leave. Something his father never had the class or decency to do.  And why not? He had the support of constituents content to believe in facades, mirages and imagery. 

In truth, Patrick Kennedy never really established himself as anything but another Kennedy. He has battled substance abuse, and bi-polar disorder all his adult life by his own admission. He firmly established his credentials as Teddy’s boy when he plowed into a barrier near the Capital building in the wee hours of the morning back in May of 2006.    

The reasons for his not seeking re-election have not been made clear. They need not be. The fact that he is stepping down is enough for me to say, “That’s that” and move on.  No need for cheap shots. Nothing more to see here, people, move along, please. 

The news services are having a field day with the fact that, for the first time in nearly 60 years, there will be no Kennedy family member serving in the House or Senate in Washington. I’m not sure what symbolism they are trying to whip up for those who still choose to live in the world of imagery, but for me it simply reminds me of one of John F. Kennedy’s favorite lines from the final song of Camelot: 

“Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot,
For one brief, shining moment
That was known as Camelot.”

Yes, but in truth, that really was long, long ago. And it was, in reality, only in our minds. 

Good luck and God speed to you, Patick. There’s still time for you to flourish as a person. May you find your personal peace outside of the political arena. 

Gerry Ashley


4 Responses to Camelot Fade To Black: Patrick Kennedy Retires

  1. Robbins Mitchell says:

    Well,if the retirement of Nazi Joe’s grandpunk signals the end of ‘Cumalot’,then so be it.

  2. the other Ken says:

    I wonder if he’ll get a job?

    • Gerry Ashley says:

      I hadn’t thought about that, but seriously… would YOU hire him, given his track record of drug and alcohol abuse? There’s no shortage of ANY kind of professionals looking for work. Why would anyone look for trouble? My guess is that Kennedy’s financially set. Now that Ted’s gone, I’m sure there was one hell of an inheritance. That should keep Patrick fine.

      But here’s an interesting thought: If Kennedy is the philanthrapist he would like us to think he was as a politician, let’s see what kind of philanthropy he’s involved with as a civilian. That will help determine his character. He certainly has the means to do survive while working as a volunteer. He now has the time (depending on how well rehab worked or what the hours of the local bar are if rehab didn’t work).

      That said, how long can it possibly be before yet another Kennedy jumps up and says, MY TURN?

  3. the other Ken says:

    I was joking, of course, since the only job that he’s ever really had has been “congressman.” I think that it would be incredibly helpful to him if he became part of the private sector for a bit and began learning about the challenges faced by people that don’t have trust funds or taxpayer money to fall back on. Unfortunately, having now seen some of his resignation video, I’m pretty certain that his intention is to continue to play “public servant” in some capacity for the rest of his life.

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