“Some see things the way the are and ask why.
I dream things that never were and say why not?“
– Bobby Kennedy
The fact is Bobby Kennedy said a lot of really powerful things at a time when they needed to be said. On the plus side, they still resonate. On the negative side, they still need to be said.
I’ve been noticing that I keep hearing people refer to America, excluding the three words that precede it. Perhaps we should get back to thinking that we are the UNITED States of America. I understand the desire to shorten shit but maybe, just maybe, we can focus on that UNITED concept for a bit, yea? Just sayin…
Like before, I made only minor edits (I’m unable to find a digital version of the text.)
This speech is titled On the Mindless Menace of Violence and was given on April 5, 1968, in Cleveland, Ohio.
“This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.
It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings who other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.
Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet.
No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.
Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
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, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors.
…When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is 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 at our brothers as aliens, …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.
…The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.
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. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.
But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.
Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow-men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.”
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the ties that bind us together as the United States of America. Well, they’re supposed to anyway.
Viva La Revolucion!