Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live. 

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Therrfk-speech-jpg__735x525_q85_crop_subsampling-2_upscalee’s an endless cycle of death and destruction that seems to permeate itself around the world, and instead of seeking out the truth and wisdom we need to continue to live in a just, peaceful world, we cling to our fears to keep us rooted in a world of stereotypes, prejudices, and a retrograde of progress.

We build the world we see based on our experiences and the reactions to those experiences. We can take an experience we’ve had in our life and make it the very essence for our fight for a certain cause, or we can use that experience to fortify ourselves around a barricaded wall of misinformation and hate. Like it or not, we live in a post 9/11 world where stereotypes we haven’t seen the likes of since the 1920s and 1930s are now prevalent in our society. We have two paths which we can go down now: one where we learn from these hideous tragedies and come together as one human race or we can continue down the path we’re already on: one of racism, sexism, and division.

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Our country has chosen that second path with its newest president. Travel bans on refugees, countries where a specific religion is the most prominent, and detaining those who’ve lived lives of peace in our country but simply did not follow the “correct” path to citizenship are not ways to heal the divisions our country faces. These decisions will only lead to more hatred within and without our country, and continue to not just divide those already marginalized within this country but those who have allowed themselves to be swindled by a government which props itself up on the hard work of the middle and lower classes yet continues to lie, cheat, and steal from them for the rich.

We’ve faced division before and faced it head on. We fought wars on poverty instead of drugs, fought for legislative and judicial justice in our continuing quest for equality, and when necessary took to the streets to organize, march, and resist against anything we found unjust in this country. People were beaten, killed, and imprisoned for these acts yet in the end progress prevailed.

Why did progress prevail? Because we took the tragedies happening around us and shaped them into ways to learn rather than let them consume us with anger and fear. Yes, we rfk_speech_on_mlkwere beaten on the march towards integration throughout our country. Did that slow us down? No, we marched onwards, learning from the assassinations of great Civil Rights Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X that while violence could be the answer, it was not the answer in this ongoing struggle and quest towards equality and racial justice.

Did the murders of JFK or RFK defeat our ability to believe in a better tomorrow? A tomorrow where we can continue to help our fellow man and create a more just and peaceful society? No, it did not. Instead, we took those heartbreaking events and knew the baton was passed to us to create that better world. The flame lives on within each of us now, and many of us know what our duty today is to build that new progressive society.

Did the events of 9/11, Pulse Nightclub, Nice, France, Aurura, or Sandy Hook break our spirits from wanting to live in a safe society where equality in all forms was upheld and promised to us all? No, it did not. Instead, we took to the streets to drown out the hate speech, the demagogues, and show the world that when one of us is hurt we all hurt. We let the world know that we are in this together and together we will solve these problems. Yes, they are systemic, but we have the ability to find their root causes and dig them out, piece by piece until we can finally begin to look at our yesterdays and see that our tomorrows are better off than they ever were.

So now we face a turning point. Will we continue to allow refugees fleeing their country to be barred from entering ours simply because of where they come from? Will we all our president to ban individuals from specific countries based solely off their religion? And will we allow a government, of the people and by the people, to tear down safety nets and other ways in which government works for the people simply to line their own re-election bid with more money?

I know if Robert Kennedy were alive today he’d join us in an utterly powerful response of “No.” That’s not what this country stands for, that’s not the compassion we humans should be providing to one another, and because it’s up to us to ensure those without a voice know their voices are heard and acknowledged.

So we fight on, learning from these terrible events happening around our world, but we do not let them control us. Instead, we shape our responses around what we can do to help our fellow man and finally “tame the savageness of man.”
– RA

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