On a recent episode “The Kennedy Files” presented the fourth in its ten-part series devoted to America’s royal family on Reelz Channel. This episode is about “The Curse,” that surrounded this family. Always high-profile, these drama-filled coincidences surrounded the Kennedys, leading the public and members of the family to believe it was true.
As the episode begins, a quote by Edith Hamilton, “Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes,” is quoted. “It was an ill-fated house … making men sin in spite of themselves and bringing suffering down upon the innocent as well as the guilty.” On July 16, 1999, the voice of Tom Brokaw is heard as a helicopter flies over the waters off Martha’s Vineyard. As the faces of Americans wipe tears away, the disbelief is apparent. He seemed so grounded, but again, the questions of “The Curse,” came up once more. Usually curses are in movies or comic books; not something the public questions of reality.
Bobby Kennedy was the first person to use the phrase after the assassination of his brother, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In the 1850s, the immigrants came from Ireland. Tens of thousands of them arrived on what were called coffin ships; where thirty percent of those who boarded died at sea. Those who made the journey were treated as badly as they were in Ireland. The white Anglo-Saxon Protestants in the Boston area controlled everything and hated the Catholics. Patrick J. Kennedy was the first-generation of the family in America. They arrived with a feeling of superiority and nobody more so than Joe Kennedy. Born in 1888 and father of the future president, founder of a fortune and born without a conscience who would do anything to get what he wanted. Joe took any risk, as an inside trader, head of a movie studio, and as legend holds; a bootlegger. He even was said to have ordered hits on anyone who got in his way. By the 1940s, he was the richest man in America. He sired a huge family of nine children, four of which were boys. The two oldest boys were Joe and Jack; both were alpha males and Joe Jr. was destined to become President of the United States.
In 1941, when America went to war, Joe Jr. dropped out of Harvard Law School and volunteered to become a Navy pilot. Jack also volunteered, but was a sickly young man and was denied. Through the intervention of his father, he was given a modest Naval Commission aboard a small P-T boat in the Pacific, numbered 109. In 1943, a collision with a destroyer sinks Jack’s boat changing Jack’s life and the future of the Kennedy’s forever. Jack saved his crew and as one would say; setting in motion the deadly logic of “The Curse.”
Joe Jr. took umbrage to his brother’s title of hero. After all, it was he who was destined for the White House, political greatness and heroism. Joe had logged in the required twenty-five missions, he twice deferred the opportunity to retire from war and return home. He volunteered for suicide missions, including flying with 20,000 pounds of explosives to bomb German submarines. Neither he nor his plane was found. Now Joe Sr. had to turn to his son Jack to fill the dream of the Kennedys. Jack had no intention of running for office, much less, become president.
The Kennedys of Boston confirmed that they were risk-takers to which the rules did not apply. When Jack was elected president, the hopes and dreams of the American people were tied to him. But the cool demeanor hid the adrenalin junkie inside. After escaping death on the P-T boat, he knew he could die any given day, so he grabbed death by the horns and lived his life.
In Dallas, he began his run for re-election and his biggest roadblock was Texas. The entire team was met by angry mobs prior to this day. As a Kennedy, he went anyway despite his warnings to refrain. Nine months after John’s assassination, “The Curse” went on. Bobby Kennedy went in to avenge his brother. However, the night he won the California primary, he was shot and mortally wounded. Three of the four male heirs of Joe Kennedy are dead. When Teddy said his brother’s eulogy, the weight of the family and his predecessors was on his shoulders and in 1980; he announced his candidacy for president to fulfill his father’s dream.
After Bobby died, his sons were taken aside and told that they would become president. Is this the wrong message to give a child after their father and uncle were both killed? In wealthy Nantucket, Massachusetts, Joe Kennedy II, the oldest of Bobby’s sons, flipped his Jeep while driving recklessly. With him were his brother David and five girls. One of the girls, Pam, David’s girlfriend is thrown from the Jeep and paralyzed. Twenty-nine year old, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., nodded off in the bathroom of a plane. The stewardess asked him to come out several times, finally, he was charged with possession of heroin. In the years to come, Robert Jr. broke his habit, but David overdosed and died in the family residence in Palm Beach, Florida. David felt that he never had ample opportunity to share his feelings about the loss of his father. Michael Kennedy looked just like his father Bobby. He is the sixth of Bobby and Ethel’s children, and was accused of having an affair with his children’s babysitter. He entered rehab for alcohol addiction, but for him there was no escaping “The Curse.” In Aspen, Colorado, the privileged Kennedy’s played football on the slopes after everyone else left the mountain. While attempting to catch the ball, he slammed into a tree and within ninety minutes, he was dead.
When John F. Kennedy Jr. flew his plane in bad weather, it was just another of the next generation of Kennedys being reckless. But behind the scenes, he was truly a risk-taker. He trained as a pilot against his mother’s wishes. It took five days to recover the bodies of John, his wife Caroline and her sister. Those who the gods raise high, have that much further to fall.