Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bobby Kennedy and the Heart of The Matter



  If I had to sum up my youth and my life with one word I would have to choose the word violent. Violence of man against man, husband against wife, man against himself, and parents against their children. And if I were allowed to ask the collective of mankind one question it would have to be why?  Why does it have to be this way? Why do people who take on the task of parenting a child so willingly,  abdicate these duties just as easily? In what is arguably the most important endeavor any adult will ever be burdened with, people take it on with less caution than they use to cross the street. I can't speak to the violence of man against mankind any more directly than Bobby Kennedy's words after the assassination of Martin Luther King
If I may share them with you, I would like you to read them. And move forward through all the stages of your life with the thought that it really doesn't have to be this way. All the violence that permeated my life was so will full and premeditated that if any one of the actors stopped for one second and thought about where his or her actions would take them there would be many graves that went unfilled, and countless tears that were were not shed, and blood that was not spilled.
Robert F. Kennedy: This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives. It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours. Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet. No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason. Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded. "Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs." Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire. Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them. Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul. For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter. This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered. We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers. Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence. We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can. Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.



10 comments:

mulderfan said...

In other words, not a fucking thing has changed.

RazedbyPD said...

That was just lovely. Thanks for posting it, q.

q1605 said...

Yes Mulderfan. Your words remind me of a joke about an old Jewish guy who made his way faithfully each day to say his prayers at the wailing wall. So finally some one asks him how it makes him feel praying the days in and the days out while nothing seems to change So he says I feel like I am talking to a wall.

q1605 said...

I won't go so far as to preach unearned forgiveness, but in light of the violent acts that took so much of what I loved in this life, I just give up. If I could talk to some of my family and stab them in the neck with a Bic pen I would, but as far as I can tell the dead go where they go and they are not coming back this way again. I can't save them so I will try and save my self. I have already wrecked my health trying to change things I can't change so if granting them a win makes my life less complicated that's what I will have to do. It's a good time in our history to be sick so that's my plan for the immediate future

q1605 said...

Thanks Razed Its lovely of you to say that.

Judith said...

Thank you for posting this. I don't think I've ever read these words of Bobby Kennedy before.

Five Hundred Pound Peep said...

I think he was the real deal, not perfect but his ideals were real and he had a conscience, and that is probably why him and his brother didn't last very long. Read that and compare it to the rantings of the orange man who got elected for being the loudest narc in the room. Mulderfan is right about the lack of change in one way but I will say one huge thing has changed. Politicians used to preach "be better ideals" and now they don't anymore. It's one big dystopian narc fest now. They don't even pretend to be "good" or have to anymore?

q1605 said...

Peep sometime in the 19th century Washington traded logical thought for swamp infested mosquito breeding brackish water. And I am not sure if the intellectual elite will ever hold sway again. Which to me runs us into a blind alley of half baked ideas and demagoguery that we may not recover from. When Trump first started his campaign I would have bet all I own that he would never get elected. But as the Eagles song goes. They put up a bunch of ugly boxes and Jesus people bought em.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWcGDvZe9cM

Five Hundred Pound Peep said...

Yes they sure did, it's gone to hell and the founders of the nation have to be rolling in their graves. He can rule by Twitter, [barfing] I agree intellect is out the window too. Oh those church people would vote for the devil. Ah they are set up to embrace the antichrist already. Trump is a test run. One reason I'm not going to church.

q1605 said...

I hope this country doesn't get saddled with the perception of us snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.