May 20, 2006

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?

Q.C. Times writer Melissa Coulter is one fine writer. She also more than redeems the name "Coulter" with this piece regarding the political legacy of Bobby Kennedy.

This, after all, is what fuels the anger of the left, and I suspect, many on the right. That the guiding principles of so many politicians particularly on the right, are their bizarre ideology which blurs pseudo-religion with corporate greed, disdain for protecting the environment, disdain for the poor, and mocking anyone who even suggests that we should work towards peace and uplifting the less fortunate among us, justifying unjustifiable war, spreading irrational fear in order to gain ever more power, and on and on.

The sheer selfishness that is the bedrock faith of the modern right, and the nearly insane belief that they, and only they, possess the "truth", facts be damned.

And it's so very, very wrong and has infected the psyche of the country like a pernicious virus.

But remember what it used to be like? What it was like when at a time when the country was at a low ebb, when things looked dark and scary, with racial tension threatening to tear the country apart, and nuclear anihilation an every present threat?

When the country was threatened and on the ropes, does anyone remember what it was like to not respond with appeals to fear and trillions in military effort, bombs, supersonic fighter jets, hundreds of thousands of troops, and hundreds of thousands of deaths?

Do you remember what it was like when leaders told us not to succumb to fear, to stand tall, and asked for the best from all of us? Asked Americans, rather than to go to the mall, as Bush did after 9-11, to sacrifice, examine ourselves, and pitch in for the good of all, appealing to our better natures?

When the call for hope, faith, social justice, and being a shining example for the rest of the world was spreading like wildfire and inspiring millions not normally involved in politics to be a part of uplifting humanity, to make things better, not only here at home, but around the globe?

It's nearly too tragic to comprehend how far we've regressed through Republican administrations and the right's massive effort to tell us that it's not only fine, but actually virtuous to be selfish, hateful, pigs who believe that a person's skin color and bank balance determine their worth. That we owe nothing to the less fortunate, and that actually, they owe the well off?

Coulter takes us back and reminds us.

In this day of deeply divided political parties and mud-slinging campaigns, the legacy of Bobby Kennedy seems hopelessly romantic and rose tinted. Responding to Porter McNeil’s guest column last Sunday, blogger “JC” wrote, “There are no clean politicians, only fantasy built poster boys the Republicans and Democrats use to rally round the political base.”

This cynicism is the norm today. And perhaps “JC,” like me, was not even alive in 1968 to experience an RFK rally firsthand. But the speeches and books that RFK left behind, the video of frenzied crowds moved by his calls to action, the testimony of people who saw the man in person, prove that he was no fantasy.

Maureen Moylan Stoops wrote on the blog about the bus trip from Iowa City as a college student to see RFK speak in Davenport. “As he spoke that day, both my roommate and I knew we were seeing someone so special and gave us such a sense of anticipation for the future. The devastation we felt a few weeks later as we watched RFK shot is something we still talk about to this day.” How much “anticipation for the future” do our current college students have as they look at the candidates in the 2006 election?

Blogger Kirill O. Thompson sums up the Kennedy promise this way: “Robert Kennedy felt the pain of his brother’s killing, learned the need of civil rights and the wrong of war and, feeling the suffering of the undertrodden, initiated a new politics. He sought to transform American politics from a money-driven media sideshow, orchestrated from the top, to a people-driven reflection of real people’s needs and aspirations. He sought to transform America’s potent free market system so that it might assist people and families most in need and at risk and alleviate the ills springing from poverty. Admiring his spirit, I have been awaiting his political heir for nearly four decades.”

Has our society changed so much in 38 years that we will never see another Bobby Kennedy? The political comments that appear every day on the blog show a jaded public, distrustful of any politician, eager to attack each other, unwilling to listen to the other side, let alone work with them. Would a message of peace and compassion be laughed at in post-9/11 America, where looking out for No. 1 seems to be the highest priority of many?

Somnieng Hoeurn, a Buddhist monk from Cambodia studying at St. Ambrose, told me that our leaders are responsible for bringing peace and happiness to the people. That in order to do that, they must be educated, not just in business schools and Ph.D. programs in universities, but in how to bring peace to the people. This starts with “compassion and loving kindness in the heart and mind,” which spreads like a virus “to your family, to your society, to the world.” A leader, Hoeurn says, must understand that war and retaliation can never lead to peace and happiness. As one who practices a faith that has endured for centuries without ever endorsing or participating in a war, his words merit our attention.

Yet who will listen? We are a society overly concerned with protecting ourselves from others. We see other human beings as threatening and dangerous. We thirst for revenge for every perceived wrong. We desire to show our might through displays of “shock and awe.”

The forces that took Bobby Kennedy from us have also taken away the optimism of our country. Bobby Kennedy can never be resurrected. Let us hope the American dream of a better tomorrow, achieved by working together in peace, can be revived.


At 5/21/2006 3:59 PM, Anonymous paladin said...

While nostalgia is always entertaining, the truth is that neither JFK or RFK could be elected today.

The press hid JFK's womanizing ways---he was even bonking the girlfriend of a member of the mafia, plus he was taking enough drugs to kill/choke a horse. Then, the press thought this wasn't part of the "public's right to know". Ain't so now.

As for Bobby, one thing that is hidden by both the press and Democrats (they're mostly the same) is that Bobby was a bear for wiretapping----and not just foreigners. You'll never hear mentioned that it was the Kennedy's who bugged the sainted Martin Luther King, Jr. That's why, at Mrs. King's funeral, it was such a hoot to see Jimmy Carter, and a bunch of Democrats denounce George Bush for monitoring terrorists conversations, when the truth was that the Democrat Kennedy's were wiretapping Mrs. King's husband when he lived.

The hypocrisy never ends. So if people like Coulter want to tell pleasing stories about their heroes of long ago, like Bobby Kennedy, to make themselves feel good, power to 'em. But give me the facts rather than the myth.

At 5/21/2006 6:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The McNeil profile of RFK, and the thoughtful Coulter article about RFK just reinforces the fact that we don't have anyone near the leadership capacity of RFK around the political scene these days.
He was electric, powerful, passionate -- and a rock star all in one. In him people invested so much hope for the future. His assassination, at age 42, was a genuine loss to America. The "what might have beens" still haunt us today. He might have defeated Nixon in '68, which means we wouldn't have had Watergate and all the cynicism that followed. Kennedy was coming into his own just as he walked into that hallway at the Ambassador Hotel when Sirhan Sirhan took his life.

What a monumental loss -- but thanks to those who are reminding us this May about his visit to Davenport on May 14, 1968.

At 5/22/2006 5:48 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Paladin, old pal,

I can only say that you're being extremely selective in your mining of history.

My opinion? What RFK stood for, or perhaps even more, what he said, the message he carried to the people, far, far, eclipses the debatable faults you highlight.

You'r point about him not being electable today is tragically true.

That doesn't mean it's right, of course, as you no doubt know.

It only serves to illustrate my point... that things have gone horribly in the wrong direction, so much so that someone with the message of RFK today would be quickly trivialized, cartoonized, and dismissed, by the pervasive and multi-voiced chorus of The Mighty Wurlitzer that the right have funded and created.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in buying media outlets, producing shows, feeding spin to talk show hosts and in-house bred conservative "pundits", cowing the media by the laughably false idea of the "liberal media" until respoinsible reporters shudder at the thought of saying a bad word about the crazy stuff coming from the right, and pressured by corporate commercial forces to avoid making waves, causing them to pretend such obvious deviousness is actually normal, true, or even makes sense.

An official of this administration once put it succinctly: the Bush White House does't bother with "reality". They TELL people what reality is until it becomes the reality.

All of this decades long, and lavishly funded effort to do an end run around what was a largely balanced major media, a media which still held the quaint notion that they were there to tell the truth to power, to serve the public by bringing them the truth, no matter how inconvenient that may be to those in power.

The very fact that someone like RFK might not even be taken seriously is really worth thinking about for a moment or two.

I think it tells it all, and is a good reason why more people are pulling their heads out of their own posteriors, standing up without fear and saying that this idiot in the White House IS reckless, he IS incompetent, and no, he isn't a bold leader with a great plan for America. (Even if he does try to buy off the suckers with a $100 fake tax rebate.), and he LIES and has lied many times, in matters which make lying about a blow job seem laughably insignificant.

There isn't anyone like RFK around these days, you lament.

Know why? Because the assendancy of right wing and corporate dominance of ALL our information sources have perverted our values and principles to the point where anyone who didn't preach a policy of war and more power to the plutocracy would be drowned out in a tide of carefully crafted propaganda until they seemed like some insane person running around claiming they're Jesus.

But is invading Iraq any more insane that that? Is giving trillions in government revenue away to the very very upper crust any more insane that that?

Is preaching fear to the population any more insane a tactic of "leadership" that the guy who think's he's Jesus?

Is pretty much abandoning the pretext that you're in office to serve the interests of ALL of the people and not just to take action on behalf of those who already are doing well any less insane that babbling that you're the second coming?

There are many... too many... figures in promeenent positions of great power who are insane..... selfish, and insane. And they've literally founded a separate media empire to go around those who would dare still tell the truth, regardless of who's buying ad time.

And they've made the values, the goals, that we were all taught in Sunday school as children or which we know by common human decency to be true, to become endlessly mocked signs of weakness, Insufficiently macho. Wimpy.

This right wing thinking is taking this country (and the world) down a very perilous and unwise path.

We not only need a JFK desperatly, but we're in a situation where the powers that be wouldn't even allow him to leave the gate. And if he managed to get too far, there's no need for getting him out of the way. They could destroy him simply by their coordinated media attacks until enough rubes think he was a joke... no, more than that, a "dangerous extremist".

Very sad, really.

At 5/22/2006 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Bobby Kennedy fan, I think Paladin makes some valid points. It's useful if we remember our political heroes in the bright light of day, with the good and the bad. It's useful to look at political heroes in a pragmatic rear view mirror, rather than simply glorifying. No doubt, RFK's early years reflected the fact he was a product of the Cold War given his views of the Soviet Union and Cuba. No doubt as Attorney General he must have displayed some aggressive tendencies at times. He also had the guts to go after the Mob, which is one reason he goes down in history as one of the best attorney generals in history.

He was also changing later in his life, showing the courage to call for a change in the Vietnam policy even though his brother's administration helped set the course. That took guts. He also began to speak plainly and compassionately about our need to revise large federal program to combat poverty, which is why he can't be pigeonholed in terms of ideology. And many labor chiefs were out to undermine him in 1968, doing HHH's bidding and getting even for his attack on the mob-union bosses.

Guts - that's what RFK had. Don't see enough of that these days in politics.

At 5/22/2006 1:42 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...

As the Dickster would have said "Well, let me say this about that....."

If RFK had done even one day as president, his utterly impromptu Indianapolis speech upon learning of the death of MLK would have gone down with The Second Inaugural and the Gettysburg Address as one of the great acts of leadership in the history of our country. He didn't, so it didn't.

My combined reading is that the MLK overhears were ordered first by J. Edgar Hoover (in full Chiffon evening gown and peach colored pumps) and ultimately ratified by the White house in 1964. Anybody who believes Bobby was a policymaker in 1964 should look me up. I've got some dot com stocks you're gonna love!

At 5/24/2006 10:46 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

umr... HA! Good stuff.

At 5/25/2006 7:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bobby's dead let him rest in peace.

At 5/26/2006 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff!!



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