Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why Oh Why Do I Do This To Myself?

I just finished reading Thurston Clarke's excellent book, "The Last Campaign: Robert F Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America." I also recently bought "A Time It Was," a mostly-pictorial full-color rendition of the same period of time in 1968, when Robert Kennedy ran for the Presidency of the United States. This probably brings my RFK book library to something like 15 volumes.

The problem with every one of these volumes is that they all end the same. I despise the ending of the RFK story. It half kills me every time.

Every five years or so, I buy the newest RFK books, getting all involved again in the excitement, hope and promise of the campaign -- and then get my heart broken all over again, which leaves me pondering, "If only he had stayed in Malibu at director John Frankenheimer's beach house, as he wanted to do, and not let the networks coerce him into going to the Ambassador that night to give his acceptance speech... If only he hadn't been taken through the kitchen at the Ambassador... If only Sirhan had hit him a millimeter behind where he shot him, he would have been fine after a few weeks of rest and recovery... the past forty years of our history would probably have been so much nobler and better... we'd be so much farther along..."

If only, if only...

Alas, there is no happy ending in any of the books.

But I keep buying them.

I guess it's because I never want to forget what it's like to feel palpable hope that things can get better for all of our citizens and for the world. I guess it's because I want to be reminded that one dedicated individual can make a difference that can rock the world -- for good -- as readily as callous or crazy individuals can rock it for evil...

I want Barack Obama to win this time because for the first time in four decades, I think he's the kind of guy who cares enough about citizens who are under-represented and so much less well off than most folks in America.

Every one of Robert Kennedy's issues are still with us: Native American teens commit suicide at three times the rate of the general population because they have so little hope; people of color and poor white people are given hand-outs rather than hand-ups -- and even the handouts are given with such degrading condescension that recipients cannot accumulate enough pride in themselves to believe they can make a change in their circumstances...

The rich get richer -- and some get more corrupt the richer they get -- and the middle class and poor get poorer and more challenged.

RFK believed and spoke of one thing that was prescient back in 1968: He said that within forty years an African-American could be President. Back then, most people -- black and white -- probably believed it was a preposterous prophecy. (A few still may.)

This year his prophecy should come true -- and then, perhaps more compassionate programs will be instituted that will make the rest of his hopes for America come true, so that no American child goes to bed hungry, or loses out on education or college because of poverty, race, gender or disability... so that no father or single mom has to hold down two or three jobs to make ends meet... so that a medical crisis doesn't bankrupt anyone...

We've been waiting a long time for the dreams of Robert Kennedy and all the people he loved to come true. I'm happy to think that we'll soon be heading in the right direction again.

His story can have a happy ending, finally. And soon.

I pray that it will.

Barack can help heal the divisions and the stains that continue, as of this writing, to mar our national soul.

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