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.”
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.
This world is continuously filled with misdeeds – some of them even committed by ourselves. None of us are saints, and I’ll be the first to admit, just as Billy Joel says that “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” Instead, what we strive towards in this world is progress – inevitable, righteous progress. That means there will be bumps in the road. Loved ones will die or flat out leave you. You may suffer from debilitating diseases that leave you with a dark pessimistic view of the world and those around you Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
There are many moments in my life where I feel waves of despair. Days where I don’t even feel like lifting my head up from my pillow. I feel like a boulder has been placed on my chest for no good reason, other than the fact that I’m alive and reality, for lack of a better work, can suck. It can rip away your happiness in just a few seconds like being punched in the gut and leave you gasping for air. And I admit, those days are difficult to get through, some days more than others.
But, when the waves of despair pass (and they usually do), I remember Bobby Kennedy. I
remember who he was, growing up the runt of his family, always doing everything he could to prove to his father, brother, and the rest of the country that he was worth it. That’s why he came off as the tough guy at first. Two things mattered most to him: family and country. When you came after either of those two he came after you, and he’d be ruthless.
After his brother’s death, though, he began to understand that life truly was fleeting and only a speck of dust in this thing called time. It’s not about living your life, it’s about what you do with it. Sure, he worked with Joe McCarthy (which some of us forget) when McCarthy went after so-called communists in our country, and he led racketeering committees which made him enemies that outlived him and was more than just an Attorney General under his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and more of a co-President, but all those paled in comparison to what he became after JFK’s death.
He became himself.
Bobby lived in the shadows of others, always doing things to boost others to higher places of power. Once his brother died, Bobby needed to discover who he was and what he stood for, personally and politically. Everything became brand new to him, but he took that vulnerability and turned it into something that has yet to be recreated in more than 60 years. He pushed forward an idea that we can work together to solve our programs and that government can do good for the people, that partisan bickering needed to end when it came to solutions which directly impacted the lives of those living in this country. Obviously, he wasn’t the first to proclaim this type of philosophy, but everyone who met him – whether they liked him or not – knew that his belief in the idea that “we can do better” was genuine. They saw it in his eyes, they heard it in his shaky voice when he gave speeches, and they felt it when he answered questions directly rather than dodging the question asked.
He also acted on those personal feelings he had towards the issues that mattered to him most. He visited areas of intense poverty and in response launched the Bedford-Stuyvesant Project, which many do see as a successful combination of the public and private sectors working together to strike at the heart of poverty in inner cities. He spoke out against discrimination, becoming not just a favorite son among the African American community, but also the Latino and Native American communities. He understood the savagery that man could inflict each other, being involved not just in international conflicts such as the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs, but also the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. He spoke up for those without a voice or whose influence was drowned out by those with more money in their pockets or louder voices to speak on their behalf. People listened to him, yes, because he was a Kennedy, but also because when he spoke you knew he meant what he said. Honesty is rare in today’s politics.
And in the end, he tried to heal. That’s the most important part of Bobby Kennedy’s legacy that I wake up everyday thinking of – filled with or despair or not – and try to continue. There are those who suffer in this world and will continue to suffer in this world, and I will do all I can to end the suffering for as many as I can. As Bobby once said:
I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I’d like to feel that I’d done something to lessen that suffering.
That’s why I created this blog. To ease the suffering of others, to bring issues of suffering to light so we can fight together to end them. We can never end all suffering, but we can act together to ease as much of that suffering as possible.
So today, to all those suffering and in despair, I say to you: you are not alone, you will not be ignored, and you are loved. I may not know you, I may never meet you, but I know you are hurting and I will dedicate the rest of my life to easing that suffering.