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’ve been trying to bring myself to write this post all week, but have found myself, time and time again, struck down by the bogs of depression and anxiety. But, I’ve forced myself, after days of thinking of this post and what I wanted it to be about, to finally put it out into the universe.
Our lives are filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We’re elated one moment and utterly defeated the next. Suffering is inevitable for all of us. The question is, how do we deal with the suffering that life causes and how do we get out of what can only be described as a labyrinth of suffering? It sometimes feels like we’ve lost our way and cannot see even six inches ahead of us. We stumble in the dark for what we hope will be the next right step. Sometimes we even have to pull ourselves along the way because our bodies and minds are so broken and twisted from the pain we’re going through.
It’s what I imagine Bobby felt on November 22, 1963, when he was swimming in his pool and received that phone call from J. Edgar Hoover that his brother, President John F. Kennedy, had just been shot and then another one not too soon after stating he was dead. I could never imagine the utter defeat his entire essence must have gone through at that moment. When you dedicate your life to someone like Bobby did for Jack and then have them ripped away from you without a moment’s notice you are left bare and alone in the dark. You can’t even say whether or not you’re still part of this world because your world has just been obliterated. And just like that, with the snap of a finger, Bobby’s life was forever changed. Continue reading
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.