There will always be moments in our lives where we’ll be stuck in our tracks. As if, no matter where we turn, we’re either going in circles or hitting a wall. Our spirits may feel crushed, our hearts may be broken, but still, we press onwards. Why? Because even when the doors feel shut and the windows are nailed down there is still the smallest glimmer of light coming through the cracks, and that’s what keeps us moving. Something that’s important about that glimmer of light, though, is where it comes from. It doesn’t come from anything we own or even someone we love. It comes from within ourselves.
You are not alone.
While this post does speak on Bobby’s own depression after his brother’s assassination, it is more focused about the horrible truth that is slowly permeating throughout our society: suicides are up, roughly 30% since 1999. The growth of this disease known as mental illness, in my opinion, stems from a few issues that must be spoken of, put out in the open without fear, and dealt with in a manner that neither negates or punishes those who have feelings of worthlessness, depression, mania, self-harm, or suicide.
As we say goodbye to Bobby 50 years after he was taken from us, I want to reflect on the consistent message he spoke of time and time again while traveling throughout the world and the US as Attorney General, a Senator from New York, and finally as a presidential candidate in 1968. His message never wavered in any position he held. His message was stern yet docile at the same time because Bobby was more than simply Bobby. He was an ideal, and that ideal will never die, so long as we continue to heed his words.
Be warned, that this post will contain a large number of photos taken on the train ride from New York City to Washington D.C. where he was laid to rest. The pictures themselves bring me to tears, but at times when I feel hopeless, I remember the words Bobby spoke and remember that the only way forward is to do just that: move forward.
We’ve crossed the threshold, as Robert Kennedy succumbed to his wounds on June 5th, 1968. Now, 50 years later, we come to a turning point, as we do every year where we reflect on the “what if’s” and “what could have been’s”: Where do we go from here? The answer, just as Bobby did just after the death of his brother, is: onwards. We continue his legacy, we fight for what’s right, and we continue to spread his message of empathy and compassion.
Now, on this blog, I might be beating a dead horse by continuously driving this idea, but I cannot stress how essential showing empathy and compassion are in light of today’s world. Read on to see why.
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.
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
We live in a world where we shut ourselves up in our heads and hide there with the belief that by staying there we’ll be safe. Unfortunately, from personal experience, I can tell you that the most dangerous place in the world is the six inches between my ears. We need to be open to others – the good and the bad – and stop thinking that we can think our way out of the problems around us. When you use your own thought process to try and solve your problems you’ll be surprised at how quickly you become exhausted from going in circles, like a dog chasing its tail.
Well, then, what are we to do? We break the habit. Sounds simple, right? Just stop thinking the way you do, they say. Then you’ll get better. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thinking the same way for 30 odd years and to tell me to just change my way of thinking isn’t necessarily going to be fully possible. What’s important, though, is to be willing to change. To have an open heart and an open mind can be your greatest ally on the days when you feel everything is crumbling around you.
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.