There are many moments in my life where I feel waves of despair. Days where I don’t even feel like lifting my head up from my pillow. I feel like a boulder has been placed on my chest for no good reason, other than the fact that I’m alive and reality, for lack of a better work, can suck. It can rip away your happiness in just a few seconds like being punched in the gut and leave you gasping for air. And I admit, those days are difficult to get through, some days more than others.
But, when the waves of despair pass (and they usually do), I remember Bobby Kennedy. I
remember who he was, growing up the runt of his family, always doing everything he could to prove to his father, brother, and the rest of the country that he was worth it. That’s why he came off as the tough guy at first. Two things mattered most to him: family and country. When you came after either of those two he came after you, and he’d be ruthless.
After his brother’s death, though, he began to understand that life truly was fleeting and only a speck of dust in this thing called time. It’s not about living your life, it’s about what you do with it. Sure, he worked with Joe McCarthy (which some of us forget) when McCarthy went after so-called communists in our country, and he led racketeering committees which made him enemies that outlived him and was more than just an Attorney General under his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and more of a co-President, but all those paled in comparison to what he became after JFK’s death.
He became himself.
Bobby lived in the shadows of others, always doing things to boost others to higher places of power. Once his brother died, Bobby needed to discover who he was and what he stood for, personally and politically. Everything became brand new to him, but he took that vulnerability and turned it into something that has yet to be recreated in more than 60 years. He pushed forward an idea that we can work together to solve our programs and that government can do good for the people, that partisan bickering needed to end when it came to solutions which directly impacted the lives of those living in this country. Obviously, he wasn’t the first to proclaim this type of philosophy, but everyone who met him – whether they liked him or not – knew that his belief in the idea that “we can do better” was genuine. They saw it in his eyes, they heard it in his shaky voice when he gave speeches, and they felt it when he answered questions directly rather than dodging the question asked.
He also acted on those personal feelings he had towards the issues that mattered to him most. He visited areas of intense poverty and in response launched the Bedford-Stuyvesant Project, which many do see as a successful combination of the public and private sectors working together to strike at the heart of poverty in inner cities. He spoke out against discrimination, becoming not just a favorite son among the African American community, but also the Latino and Native American communities. He understood the savagery that man could inflict each other, being involved not just in international conflicts such as the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs, but also the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. He spoke up for those without a voice or whose influence was drowned out by those with more money in their pockets or louder voices to speak on their behalf. People listened to him, yes, because he was a Kennedy, but also because when he spoke you knew he meant what he said. Honesty is rare in today’s politics.
And in the end, he tried to heal. That’s the most important part of Bobby Kennedy’s legacy that I wake up everyday thinking of – filled with or despair or not – and try to continue. There are those who suffer in this world and will continue to suffer in this world, and I will do all I can to end the suffering for as many as I can. As Bobby once said:
I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I’d like to feel that I’d done something to lessen that suffering.
That’s why I created this blog. To ease the suffering of others, to bring issues of suffering to light so we can fight together to end them. We can never end all suffering, but we can act together to ease as much of that suffering as possible.
So today, to all those suffering and in despair, I say to you: you are not alone, you will not be ignored, and you are loved. I may not know you, I may never meet you, but I know you are hurting and I will dedicate the rest of my life to easing that suffering.