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
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.”
“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.
No one deserves to suffer. From birth to death, every moment you live should be free of that awful burden of suffering. Whether it be that child in poverty going to sleep hungry because their family can’t afford dinner, the family ripped apart because of living in a war-torn country, or someone with a disease or disability they never asked for.
Those who suffer are the ones who grow up to feel more. They maintain that sentiment of what it means and feels like to suffer; and it’s those who you usually see working their hardest at nonprofits, NGO’s, within city, state, or the federal government who have suffered the most throughout their lives. They believe in the simple principle that no one in need should go without it and that at any moment they could find themselves in that same place of need.
Unfortunately, we live in highly complicated times where suffering does occur. Utopias only exist in fairy tales. Instead, we’re left with those who care less for others than they do themselves. They look to either line their pockets with more money than they know what to do with, or they’re seeking more power for themselves.
To those I say: look around at those you ignore. Look at the backs you are breaking to give yourself a lift up above them. Those you stand upon to gain whatever it is you want will always be stronger than you will ever be. They, the ones who go to bed at night unsure of what the next day will bring them, in every literal sense of the word, are the bravest souls you will find.
They will not be forgotten or disappear. Instead, they are the face for what you fear the most: progress, because when those suffering see others suffering they will band together and stand on your back to make themselves known. You cannot erase their suffering or the troubles they faced throughout their lives, but you will awake a sleeping giant unlike any you’ve ever known.
Robert Kennedy knew this before any of us, especially when he spoke in South Africa in the midst of apartheid. He knew what those who suffered could accomplish if they banded together, regardless of your skin color, ethnicity, age, gender, or whatever it was that caused the suffering. They would carry each other, even when broken and battered, to that mountaintop Martin Luther King, Jr. said he’d seen right before his assassination.
Instead of a mountaintop, though, Bobby saw those little ripples of hope we each could be in enacting change anywhere in the world. In each of us, in all of us who suffer, there is a little ripple of hope we can become even in the darkest of times, and when we merge together we can become the largest of waves powerful enough to wash away any injustice or hatred.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
All it requires us to do is work together instead of live divided, as we do today. Families in this country are torn apart simply because of their political views when we should be cherishing the fact that we can each have our own views because in many countries around the world that right can get you arrested, exiled, or killed.
Bobby understood that we are all one human race, regardless of what you look like or what your social status is.
And as one human race, we suffer together.
So as one human race we should work together to ease the suffering in our world instead of picking fights with each other based on superfluous things.
We must love one another or we will perish.
So, once again, to those suffering: the child going to sleep hungry in what is considered the “shining city on a hill,” the Syrian refugee fleeing the only place they’ve ever known for their lives because their entire village was destroyed by fire from the sky, the black man or woman who is afraid to speak up for their rights to police officers because they’re afraid of the response being the barrel of a gun, and every single person who suffers in ways I may never understand or know of: I love you and I will fight the rest of my life for a world where we can sing a requiem for the suffering you’ve faced head on and succeeded in conquering.