Back in 1968, after Lyndon Johnson dropped out of the race on the Democratic ticket and his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, took his place we began to hear something strange. There was this talk about the “politics of joy.” It almost felt like we were living in some sort of tone-deaf country. Hadn’t we just lost Martin Luther King, Jr. just a few weeks earlier? Weren’t there riots in the streets and cities literally on fire? Weren’t thousands of young soldiers dying halfway across the world? We weren’t living in a world – let alone politics – of joy. We were living in a world of impending doom.
Today marks the 19th anniversary of the school shooting at Columbine High School, where 15 students and teachers (including the shooters themselves) were massacred in an act of senseless rage. And today millions of students across the country walked out of their schools to once again protest the heinous carnage that goes on time and time again around us with seemingly no end in sight. It’s time like these when we feel hopeless and that we are doomed to simply repeat the past over and over again.
This time, though, it’s different. You can feel it in the air. Change is a-comin’ and there’s nothing special interest groups, fundamentalists, or conservatives (with a small c) can do about it. Progress moves forward even in the darkest of times, and, just like life, it stops for no one. Winston Churchill said of America:
“Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.”
When I wake up in the morning I feel disheartened, because I feel the insignificance that is me. I think of how the world gets on just fine without anyone knowing who I am, and I wonder whether I was cut out for this world. I worry that the incredibly small amount of time I have on this planet will be wasted and I will have accomplished nothing. I will leave no dent in the universe, and instead, be left on the list of billions of unknown people who have passed on and since then been forgotten.
Then I think of what Bobby said all those years ago and I’m reminded that even the smallest person can make a difference. Just look at what’s happened in our country since the Presidential Election of 2016, since the shooting in Parkland, since the moment you woke up this morning. All of these little, unknown people made from the stuff of stars in the universe somehow made their voices of sanity rise above the fray of incredible and incoherent yelling we’re hearing every day.
“My favorite poem, my—my favorite poet was by Aeschylus. And he once wrote:
Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
through the awful grace of God.”
On April 4, 1968, Robert Kennedy spoke to a small crowd in Indianapolis at what was supposed to be a campaign stop during his presidential campaign. Instead, he had to break the news to this crowd – of mostly black individuals – that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot and killed. Cries rang out when they heard this news, but still, they listened to Bobby as he spoke of what our country could truly become if we fought through the fog of division and hatred seething through our country at the time.
Those words ring louder today more than almost any other time in our country’s history. We face an immense uphill climb today. Our country has continued down this path of division and hatred, and it has culminated in the devolution of man from our once compassionate and strong will towards social progress to a completely divided country and selfish way of life.
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.
We cannot continue down this path.
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.
Take a look at that shiny new smartphone you have, or maybe the big screen TV you have at home. Pretty sweet, right? You’ve got these great commodities which you worked so hard for and now that you have them in your life you should feel happier, right? You now have what you worked for. It’s in your life now, and you can take pride in it.
As our sesquipedalian Cheeto-faced orange of a president states so eloquently: Wrong.
We’ve been here before, haven’t we? There’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.
We now live in a society where rules have been thrown out the window. Where the idea of
a sane leader has been replaced by a hyperbole on top of a massive form of personification. We believe what we hear yet refuse to discover whether it is true or not. Why is that? Why are we afraid to uncover if something we’ve learned is incorrect or not? It’s simple: we’re afraid of change.
You showed class and dignity at a time when Washington was at its most divisive and pettiest. You understood the importance of being proactive rather than being reactive.
You never responded to any of the awful things thrown at you because they simply weren’t worth your time. When they went low, you went high.
You believed in “We the People” as one nation instead of a nation of sections, states, or party members, and always reached out to learn others’ frustrations and how to reach a common ground.
When tragedy struck, you were there to console us like a father weeping for the loss of his son, because we were all your children and we knew you looked out for us. Whether it be Newtown, Aurora, Fort Hood, Orlando, or San Bernadino, you embraced each of us with the comfort and reminder of love that each of us needed.
When you knew something was wrong, you fought against it with hope, perseverance, and compassion. Sometimes you succeeded in change, and sometimes you did not, and that’s okay, because we know we have so much more work to do.
No, you were not a perfect president, but there will never be a perfect president. Instead, though, you reminded prior generations, and let an entirely new generation know, that there can be someone in the Oval Office who knows what they’re doing, will treat you as their equal, and never forget to remind you that the limits of human possibility are boundless.
We took your intelligence for granted and we will miss having someone who not only identified with disenfranchised Americans when related to your upbringing, but fought for compassion and empathy in this nation. There is an entire generation of Americans who have never seen America with a president who is white, and the power behind that is immeasurable.
Where many of us today see a red or a blue America, you, sir, see one United States of America, and we’ll get to that point with you one day. And when we do get there, I think we’ll finally understand and realize that we couldn’t have gotten there without you, President Barack Obama.
Whatever happened to working together? Remember while you were in school and your teachers forced you to work together in groups with other classmates? What did they say to you when you grumbled about how you hated working in groups?
“This’ll come in handy when you’re an adult and have a job.”
Why? Because in life you’ll always come across people you don’t want to work with, but guess what? As an adult, you have to make the mature decision to work with them to attain whatever goal you’re working towards.
Obviously, we’ll never agree with every single person we come in contact with, but we can at least meet common ground to ensure what we are doing gets done in an effective and productive manner. As Robert Kennedy said: “About one-fifth of the people are against everything all of the time.” That doesn’t mean we can’t work together with at the last other four-fifths who aren’t against everything all of the time.
Apparently, this no longer applies to our Legislative Branch of government.
Well, not unless your specific House of Congress is completely controlled by the same political party so you no longer have to worry about working together.
We live in a new age of selfish, petty, and downright childish politics and I am absolutely sick of the most professional and important bodies of government in the world acting like