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.”
“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.
Those were the words Robert Kennedy lived by as he worked tirelessly to soothe race relations, ease the pain of the sick and suffering, and show this country that we are – indeed – a compassionate country. It’s what he fought for during his time as Attorney General, the torch he picked up and carried after his brother died, and fought for each day from his tenure as a Senator of New York to his short-lived 85-day presidential campaign.
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.