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.
I wake up every day and see news outlet after news outlet polluting our minds with jealousy, vanity, and cynicism. How many homicides were there today? Did they catch the guy who kidnapped that kid? Will they ever be found? And if they’re found will they be the same? The stock market’s up, though, so don’t you worry, my friend, everything’s gonna be all right.
Is this really how we judge whether we’re succeeding as a country – as a species? Is it more important to have more money in your pocket than it is to have an open mind? When did inflexibility become the new normal? You can’t have a conversation with anyone regarding any type of political theory lest you risk the conversation becoming an attack on you personally.
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.
I’ll be perfectly honest. I haven’t been posting because my life has been flipped on its head. Whether it be the loss of family members, loved ones, or suicide attempts, I have wafted away from this website with the inevitable cry of “I’ll get back to it, I swear.” The truth is, that I lied to myself and I lied to my readers.
I created this website to try and bring more compassion into a world that has continuously grown more hostile and cynical by the minute. I owe it to myself and all those who read this to find a safe haven from the hailstorm of hate.
And I promise this time I’m back.
I’m back for you.
I’m back for me.
I’m back for Bobby.
“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.
Yesterday, after the unspeakable mass murder that took place in Las Vegas, I was at a loss for words as to how I would react to such a heinous act of violence. I wrote a post, instead, about how we must learn to come together, love one another and understand each other in order to break this endless cycle of violence.
Today, I am still speechless and at a loss for words, but I feel Robert Kennedy spoke just as true nearly 50 years ago about violence as it pertains to today. The fact that we still have yet to learn and understand from our fellow neighbors around us shows just how far we have still to go.
Below is a video with the audio for Robert Kennedy’s “Mindless Menace of Violence” speech he gave the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Please give a listen and if you feel it still resonates during these violent times we currently live in please like, share, and comment below.
I’ve included the transcript of the speech under the video.
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.
And none of us are innocent. So long as we stand on the sidelines and remain bystanders to the hate, ignorance, dishonesty, and apathy we will remain guilty. Our society is the way it is today because of the inability for us to stand for what is right. It’s a hard truth, but sometimes those truths are the most necessary to wake us up to what is going on around us. Sometimes we need that fall from our comfortable bed to the hardwood floor to wake us up from the figments of our imagination we’ve envisioned around us.
The hardest part, though, is the waking up.
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.