King, Kennedy and the American Revolution

All of us, from the wealthiest and most powerful of men, to the weakest and hungriest of children, share one precious possession; the name American. — Robert F. Kennedy

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bobby lately. In watching still another year end as I go further into my dotage, I’m reminded of other years from the past that cry out to be remembered, the year 1968 being among the most poignant. When the announcement came over the television set that Bobby Kennedy had died from the assassin’s bullet, I called my husband at work, tears streaming down my face. “Now they’ve killed Bobby,” I cried.

Who were “they”? I didn’t know, but like many Americans I felt the presence of evil. A black miasma skulked amongst us as if waiting to see what we held most dear as a people so “they” could take it away. The feeling had lingered since that shocking day four and a half years before, on November 22, 1963, when our beloved president was taken down by an assassin’s bullet. As a nation we had never recovered, the shock still reverberating throughout our psyche like a terrible wound that would not heal.

Then another wound, the assassination of our great Civil Rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, younger brother of our fallen president was on his way to a planned campaign rally in his bid to get the 1968 Democratic nomination for President. Just after he arrived in Indianapolis, he was told of King’s death and advised by police not to make the campaign stop. It was in a part of the city considered to be a dangerous ghetto. But Kennedy insisted on going. He found the people in an upbeat mood and realized they didn’t know. In breaking the news of King’s death he referred to his own loss of his older brother and quoted from memory the Greek Poet, Aeschylus. “He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”

Just two months later, on June 5, 1968, while celebrating his victory in the California primary Bobby said to his supporters only minutes before he, too, was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet. “I think we can end the divisions within the United States. (W)e can work together in the last analysis. . . We are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country.”

Some say that in 1968 America came close to political disintegration. Millions of people opposed the war and the military announced in early 1968 that it would draft 300,000 more troops. Americans were dying in Vietnam by the hundreds and young people lost confidence in our leaders and in the official version of reality. There was a movement afloat, a revolution at hand before our beloved leaders who had brought hope to the country were cut down. Although the war was later ended and the troops brought home, after 1968 many of us detached ourselves from the painful public square and turned our attention on matters closer to home.

Surprisingly, though, we ended up rearing children who became educated, sensitized and responsive to their natural and political environments. Adult children who were able to agree or disagree without rioting in the streets, who also have inculcated and are passing down the dreams that King and Kennedy inspired in their lasting contribution to the ongoing American revolution.

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