Just Above Sunset
November 27, 2005 - Times Have Changed

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John Kennedy was assassinated Friday, November 22, 1963 – and the anniversary on Tuesday, November 22, passed with barely a mention anywhere.  Forty-years have gone by, and there's a whole lot else to think about these days. 


Well, from Ireland you got this: JFK could have taught our lot how to accept political responsibility - but that uses our Kennedy to discuss contemporary Irish politics.  There were almost no retrospectives here, nor any attempts to apply anything he said or stood for to events these days.


So much for him.


Also, Sunday, November 20, 2005, would have been Bobby Kennedy's eightieth birthday, or so I see here - a discussion of who he was and what he was doing, and what it all meant. 


Remember the sixties?

What stuck me was this excerpt from a speech the younger Kennedy made in Cleveland –


For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions, indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor; this poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies - to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look on our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear - only a common desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers. Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what program to enact. The question is whether we can find in our midst and in our own hearts that leadership of human purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled nor enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land.


Well, he got shot, but be that as it may, one wonders who in the political realm is saying such things today.

Heck, with the most important leader of the Christian evangelicals, Pat Robertson, last month calling for our government to assassinate the elected leader of Venezuela, we have the State Church, so to speak, arguing disagreement should be met with force. They call themselves soldiers for Christ - some of them bomb abortion clinics and assassinate doctors, to save the "lives" of the yet-to-be-born.

But Robertson was not elected to any office. So he doesn't count.

As for the meeting this difficult world "not with cooperation but with conquest," and seeing others as those "to be subjugated and mastered," those we have elected to office say we are not doing that sort of thing at all. We just occupy Iraq - going on two and a half years now - telling them their oppressor is gone and they should run their place the way we say, because it's the best way to run things - secular and free-market and privatized for the maximum influence of large corporations. Everyone knows that, right? How can they be so dumb? Why are they resisting?

As for how the administration gets its way, well, "when you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family," well, that works. You stay in power.

I posted this on 28 May 2003 - and stand by it –


Do you remember the clear-headed, no-bullshit, let's-be-fair liberals of yesterday? Bobby Kennedy in that last run just laying it all out - hey, some stuff is wrong here and why don't we think it through, fix it and make things better? Well, Bobby got shot. Martin Luther King doing the same thing. Well, he got shot a few months earlier than Bobby. Of course, to be fair, George Wallace got shot too. Lots of people got shot.

But the point is that those optimistic "why don't we fix it and make things better" kinds of guys are nowhere to be found these days. What you'll see on Bush campaign stickers in the 2004 election? You know - variations on "Just Do It" or "Money Talks, Bullshit Walks" or "Get In, Sit Down, Shut Up, And Hold On" - and of course that quote from Marge Simpson - "We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it." The other side, the Democrats, will have bumper stickers asking if we all can't just get along.

No Democrat will win anything by whining about the smirking frat boy or by fretting about some British essayist hating cheeseburgers and everything American. To win the Democrats would have to field an opponent with a sense of humor, some brains, and a lot of optimism, someone who listens to what is being said, and is willing to say - "Hey, some stuff is wrong here and why don't we think it through, fix it and make things better?"

It does not seem like that is going to happen. And if it did, he or she would get shot.


How are things different now?

Well, on the Kennedy birthday you could see Senator Joseph Biden on Fox News, talking about a possible filibuster of the Alito nomination, and Fox anchor Chris Wallace, Mike Wallace's son, wishing Joe a happy birthday. Same day? Same party? Yep. But we're living in diminished times.

Also I see here, oddly enough, that Sunday, November 20, 2005, is the sixtieth anniversary of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) trials staring up in Nürnberg, Germany. There are a few links there to jog your memory, and the comment that, although we helped create the International Military Tribunal, we now don't want anything to do with the International Criminal Court.

All these decades later... the world has changed.


So have we.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
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