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 qctimes.com 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.