Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Thanks, Mr. Kennedy

I'm not positive when I wrote this--I think somewhere around 2011, at a time when I'd taken a hard tumble off the fence I usually make my political home. But it was 50 years ago June 6 that Bobby Kennedy died. I remember the day and how I felt. At first I felt hopeless with him gone. There wasn’t anyone else in politics who listened, who wanted the good of all. But the hopelessness didn’t last, because he was all about hope. 

In truth, I've visited hopelessness--and anger--often since then. I don't know that either emotion had positive results. My optimism has dimmed and so has my belief in what we euphemistically refer to as "the system," but reading back over this and remembering that June day in 1968 has given me back a little. It's okay to be mad, to have our rose-colored glasses smudged sometimes, but it's not okay to give up. I changed the title of this column at first today, to RIP, Mr. Kennedy, but I'm fairly certain he's not resting in peace. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't give up, so I'm not. And you shouldn't, either.

I never wanted to be a liberal. Truth be told, I never wanted to be political at all. It’s all Bobby Kennedy’s fault, because way back in the 1960s, he made me think all things were possible. For everybody.

It’s that “everybody” part that got me.

In case you don’t know anything about me, I am a stereotype to end all stereotypes. I’m Christian, white, straight, married, and retired. You know those people who say they worked their butts off for 40 years and now it’s their turn to sit on them and draw their “entitlement?” — I’m one of them.

I love Christmas for all the “right” reasons — I love the Lord, peace on earth, good will toward men — and the “wrong” ones — I love presents, parties, and Christmas songs. My clothing and the stuff in my house is traditional. I drive an SUV. I am happy to be an American and I’m proud of it, too, though … oh, good Lord, do I think we have problems!

Most of them, I’m prone to believe, have to do with two things:  (1) Greed. And, no, I’m not going to explain that one. If you don’t get it on your own, you’re not going to, and (2) People are always mad at other people. For such a myriad of reasons it would be silly to make a list.

However, besides being a stereotype, I occasionally step across the line from sane to silly in a heartbeat. Or a keystroke if you want to get literal about it. So here’s my list of why I think people are mad at others:

  • Because the other person is of the wrong religion. (This one includes no religion at all.)
  • Because the other person is of the wrong color, nationality, or ethnicity. (A really big umbrella — it probably deserves more than one slot, but I’m trying to keep this list reasonable.)
  • Because the other person is of the wrong sexual orientation.
  • Wrong gender.
  • Wrong profession.
  • Wrong neighborhood.
  • Wrong political party. (This includes, besides the official party designations, conservative and liberal. While I’m pretty much a liberal — thanks a lot, Bobby — I’m not really a democrat and I doubt I’m the only one who’s tired of being told she is.)
  • Wrong tax bracket. Yes, I’m serious. I’m part of the begging-for-relief middle class — you think I’m not mad?
  • Wrong age.
 Well, I was going to go for an even ten, but I couldn’t think of anyone else to be mad at right now. You can make your own list.

As usual, I seem to have swerved slightly from where I started this little soliloquy — okay, I’ve veered wildly and may get arrested for writing while incensed — so I guess I’ll try to connect the middle to the beginning and see if I can arrange an end.

Back to me being a liberal. And a stereotype. And mad. (I don’t think I’m greedy, so I’m leaving that out.)

I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with being mad at people because they are different from us. Well, actually, I do, but I’m trying to be realistic here — are you going to be less mad because I tell you it’s wrong? Where we run into those problems I mentioned earlier is when we try to hurt the ones we’re mad at. I feel another list coming on, but I’m going to see if I can avoid that.

In truth, most of us probably don’t intend to do harm. Other than the bullies of the world, who do of course want to hurt everyone except their own closed circle of cronies. It’s what they do.

Some conservative groups want to deny basic civil rights to gay people. And women. And people of retirement age. And children. White supremacists think “white is right.” Some black activists think just the opposite. There are people in the world who think what happened on Nine-Eleven was okay, that we “deserved” it. There are Christians who think the doors to the house of God should be closed to ones whose beliefs don’t exactly mirror theirs. There are atheists and agnostics who think the word God — complete with a capital G — should be drummed out of, well, everything. There are feminists who think if you don’t believe in late-term abortion, you’re not a real feminist. There are … well, crap, it’s another list, isn’t it? And it’s way too long.

Good grief, are we all bullies? The “everybody” that Bobby Kennedy made me believe deserved All Things Are Possible? Can that be?

Maybe we are. Maybe realizing that would be a good first step. Maybe if each of us did our own little part to fix it — look inside yourself, dummy, not at the “wrong” people — that would be an even better second step. Maybe …


  1. It was one of those moments that stays with you forever. Getting ready for school and listening to the radio. When I heard Bobby Kennedy had been shot, I felt that this country would never realize the promises he'd made. It hasn't. All we can do is our part to make changes and keep the country strong. I came from a military family with military order and discipline beaten into me every day. With the sting of John Kennedy's assassination still burning, that was the day I decided I would also wear the uniform of this country and pick up arms against our enemies. No regrets.

    1. Thank you, Sandy. For coming by and, especially, for the service you've given.

  2. Yes to all of what you've said here. I'd like to be more eloquent, but you've done that for both of us. Thnak you.

  3. John Kennedy was killed the day I was taking a final exam my first quarter at Manchester College. The news of his being shot was on the radio as I was driving to school. During the exam all the bells on campus and across North Manchester begin to toll, we knew he had died. I was taking my final exam of my final class before graduation the day Bobby Kennedy was killed. Those two events framed my college experience. It was also the era of Vietnam, hippies and riots across America. Looking back on it, I find that in many ways I was insulated from most of it. I was so busy being a farmer's wife, mother to three children, studying and doing all the things necessary to keep a hone and family that I didn't have time to be involved in things outside of my immediate circle of experience. Things have changed since them and
    I appreciate your perspective.