History lesson: RFK

Forty years and 1 day ago, Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

I have to confess, I actually knew very little about his assassination. I have always lumped it in with MLK and JFK’s assassinations, and never thought much about it.

So I didn’t realize that his assassin was a Palestinian-American, who murdered him because of support for Israel. A program on NPR yesterday offered the theory that this was the first anti-Israel act of terrorism in America, but at the time, this explanation for his death was not offered or made.

Furthermore, on NPR today, they replayed an excerpt of a powerful, spontaneous speech RFK made in Indianapolis the night MLK was assassinated:

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King — yeah, it’s true — but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love — a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past, but we — and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

And let’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

The whole speech is pretty phenomenal. I encourage you all to read it.

And what blows me away is this fact, which I just learned today: All across America the night MLK was killed, there were riots. I have excerpts of Nina Simone’s concert from the night MLK was murdered, and she’s much more angry, sounds much more hopeless than RFK is here. Undertandably so. But in Indianapolis, things were quiet. Also, apparently many of the people traveling with RFK that night urged him not to go to the place where he had planned a speech, because they thought it would be “dangerous” (read: Black). He went anyway, and spoke from the heart. And people listened.

That is the best indicator of hope I can imagine. And that is the kind of leader we need today.

I hope Barack Obama can be that leader for us.


~ by realsupergirl on June 5, 2008.

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