This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about this mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.
How could these words, spoken nearly 50 years ago, still resonate today so fluidly, so clearly, so precisely? What are we to say when the violence surrounding us becomes so common that we become numb to the pain and aggravation it causes?
The first question that comes to our mind is: Who do we blame?
The second question that comes to our mind is: How could this happen?
And lastly, the question that seems to forever fall to the wayside and on deaf ears too often but requires an answer is: What can we do to stop this?
Many say these questions sometimes are so difficult to answer, but the truth is they are not. The answer is right in front of you. In fact, all we need to do is stand in front of a mirror to understand the causes, who to blame, and how to stop this.
Robert Kennedy knew that violence would always beget violence. Whether it be against someone of a different creed, race, nationality, religion, or any other difference we may have amongst ourselves, he knew that the cycle of violence would never end until we found it within ourselves to cut that cycle off completely once and for all.
We need to change. Not just our government – the political parties in charge of whatever branch they may run. No, we need to change ourselves. We need a radical upheaval of what it means to be human in today’s world. What does it mean to care about our neighbor? What does it mean to live in a world where we truly understand when one of us suffers we all suffer?
Instead, we’ve grown isolated within ourselves, and whether it be the divides between us in politics, our religions, our nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, or social status we have grown to hate one another more now than ever before. That anger bubbles and builds up until there are no more walls to hold back those feelings and they explode out of us like a bullet in a gun.
We strike at those we have differences with rather than educating ourselves and learning from those we disagree with because it is the simple thing to do. We feel more comfortable stuck in our same old beliefs rather than working to change ourselves because we know it is not easy. In fact, we’re frightened of it.
The world we live in today is a culmination of what we have brought upon ourselves. We’ve seen massacres before and we will see massacres in the future. For those acts of violence that have happened in the past, we took the easy road and shut our eyes to the carnage around us saying it would never happen to us. Now, the violence has caught up with us and ignoring it is no longer possible.
It is time to act.
It is time to understand that we are both the problem and solution to the issues surrounding us. It’s what Robert Kennedy understood, and what he expressed throughout his time in public office. We may not like the idea that we are the problem, but we should find some relief that we have the ability to fix it. And while others say it is too late to do so, I say we heed the words of Robert Kennedy and start to believe that we have the capacity to repair that which we have broken.
We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we’ve had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.
Let us dedicate ourselves to opening our hearts, learning from one another, remembering that our neighbors are our brothers and sisters, and show compassion for one another.
Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanish it with a program, nor with a resolution.
But we can perhaps remember – even if only for a time – that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek – as we do – nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.
Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.