Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop...

A beloved hero of mine, Robert Francis Kennedy.

I have always been fascinated by this guy, and the more I read about him in college, the more I cared for him and what he stood for. My friends and fellow students were always teasing me for it and asking just what it is about him that intrigues me.
Let me attempt to explain.. (the man was an enigma, and therefore cannot just be laid out and defined).

He said:
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” 

And he truly walked the walk.
The older brother of Teddy Kennedy, and younger brother of Jack Kennedy, Bobby was different.
He was sensitive, he was concerned, he was distraught by the problems of his age and not distracted by the playboy lifestyle many of his other family members engaged in. He was the quiet Kennedy.

He was unique even from a young age--while living in England, during his father's term as Ambassador, he was walking home from school alone one day (he liked to be alone quite often) and stopped into a Catholic church.  There were several homeless people sitting in the pews, as a refuge from the cold streets. Bobby was surprised at how cold the inside of the church was and, on his own, contacted several people responsible to remedy this. They said they couldn't afford to heat the church, except on Sundays. Bobby wouldn't stand for it. He went to his father and asked if he could use his future allowances to pay for heating in the church, among other options.
In the end the church got its heat.
And all of this before he was even a teenager! 

Later on he didn't just try to help the needy, but pursued the bad guys as well.
He served as an attorney for the Justice Department in the Criminal Division (when he went after Jimmy Hoffa).
[See how I snuck today's watercolor in here?!]

He managed JFK's successful presidential campaign and was appointed Attorney General (amid cries of dynasty, of course). During this time his main concern was Civil Rights, and he ceaselessly fought to pass Civil Rights legislation through Congress (and pushing Jack to get more involved in Civil Rights, which is how JFK's Civil Right's Bill came into being, and was passed by his successor Lyndon Johnson in 1964).  Bobby was vehemently against the Vietnam War as well.

He became a crucial voice during the Cuban Missile Crisis (particularly as he was his brother's most trusted advisor). At first, in the wake of the Bay of Pigs and knowledge that the government had stabbed his brother in the back, he was a hardliner. He wanted to invade Cuba. But he got beyond this and realized what a disaster the situation could become--nuclear war--and vehemently exhorted his colleagues to consider the moral dimensions and repercussions of their actions. He passionately defended the blockade, which we all know was successful.

The assassination of his brother Jack, his best friend, wrecked Bobby. 
He sank into a deep melancholy that he never recovered from. He was disinterested in the Warren Commission. I believe he knew exactly what killed his brother and wanted to stay away from it, not only for self-preservation but to help the American people cope by not encouraging any conspiracy or implementing the role of the government.

He briefly remained Attorney General under LBJ, but as they completely hated each other's guts, and LBJ was an asswipe, Bobby resigned and became a popular New York senator. 

In 1967 he gave yet another speech condemning America's presence in Vietnam:

“Although the world’s imperfection may call forth the act of war, righteousness cannot obscure the agony and pain those acts bring to a single child. It is we who live in abundance and send our young men out to die. It is our chemicals that scorch the children and our bombs that level the villages. We are all participants.”

On the beach with his dog, Freckles.

On March 16th, 1968, Bobby announced his candidacy for the presidency ("I do not run for the presidency merely to oppose one man, but to propose new policies.") Oh snap, Lyndon.

Less than 3 months later he was dead. And being the fatalist that he was, I think he knew. He knew what was coming for him, but he couldn't stop. He was after something far beyond himself.
Even Jackie knew that "the same thing that happened to Jack" was going to happen to Bobby.

My favorite speech from Bobby was made in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death in Indianapolis. That night, there were riots all across the United States. Indianapolis was peaceful.
This speech is beautiful, sad, honest. I think it reveals just some of the depth of Bobby's spirit--the man who delved into poetry following his own brother's assassination and quoted Aeschylus: "And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart...."

2 months and 2 days after this speech, Bobby was gone.
Lyndon Johnson had resigned from the presidential race (he knew he couldn't beat Bobby) and the true race was between RFK and Eugene McCarthy. 
On June 5th, Bobby won the California primary and made a victory speech shortly after midnight.

He flashed the peace sign, what had become the symbol of his campaign, grinning boyishly, pushing his hair out of his eyes, and left the stage victoriously. He was shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel seconds later.

His last words, which summed up who he was as a person, were

 "is everyone alright?"

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