Those were the words Robert Kennedy lived by as he worked tirelessly to soothe race relations, ease the pain of the sick and suffering, and show this country that we are – indeed – a compassionate country. It’s what he fought for during his time as Attorney General, the torch he picked up and carried after his brother died, and fought for each day from his tenure as a Senator of New York to his short-lived 85-day presidential campaign.
It was a clear and pertinent idea that rang through the ears of everyone who listened to his impassioned cries for a better country. It didn’t matter whether you were for or against him. Somehow his words were able to reach something deep beneath you and carry you into the shoes of someone who was suffering in some way.
Those four words changed us for a brief moment in history from a selfish country beginning to feel the backlash against the New Deal and the rising wave of individual conservatism to a selfless community where we saw problems, no matter how big or looming they were and knew we could fix them. No problem was too big for us to solve in the eyes of Robert Kennedy and, for a fleeting moment, we believed it, too.
Where have those days gone? Those feelings of rising to the occasion, no matter how perilous or excruciating the work, and joining together to solve whatever problems we faced? When did we become complicit enough with how broken things were to simply walk by the injustices that have continued to build up to this very day and do nothing about them?
Whatever happened to believing in a better tomorrow?
Instead, we walk past a homeless individual on the ground and immediately blame them for the situation they’re in. We tell people who suffer from mental illness or some kind of addiction to simply suck it up and get over it. We refuse to reach out our hand anymore to help those in dire need. Instead, they’re welcomed with a closed fist rather than the gentle hand belonging to the compassionate being Robert Kennedy knew was in each of us.
We’ve put up the blinders around our eyes to block out those suffering around us, focusing only on our own self-interest. We’ve become just as Robert Kennedy warned us about while speaking about the Mindless Menace of Violence. We’ve become complacent in a world that we know is unfair yet have grown accustomed to. We’ve become disillusioned by those who work within our government instead of having faith that they will have our back when the going gets tough yet constantly keep them in office because we’ve lost faith in bringing about change.
And we’ve lost that will to seek a newer world.
When will we get that back? When will we understand that what is broken must be fixed?
We can do better.