Monday, October 4, 2010

What if?

Kennedy brothers I generally try not to engage in hypotheticals. We can't change the past, and we shouldn't even think that would be a good thing. Just think of what happened when Captain Kirk saved Edith Keeler! Seriously. Everyone knows that you don't tug on Superman's cape, and you don't fuck with the space-time continuum.

However, I'm currently reading Ted Kennedy's autobiography, True Compass. The other night, I finished the chapter entitled "1963," and yesterday, I finished the one entitled "Bobby." Although Ted Kennedy didn't dwell on details (I wouldn't expect him to...plenty has been written about both brothers' assassinations, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s.), it was enough to bring tears to my eyes. I was too young to remember any of these tragic deaths, and I only remember a vague hint of unrest happening in my young world. My Dad was in the National Guard, and I believe he got called out a couple of times to deal with civil unrest in our city.

I can only read about it, and I can't help but wonder how things might have been different if John Kennedy had lived. Ted writes that the President was becoming increasingly convinced that the war in Vietnam was not winnable, and had expressed his desire to begin to extricate ourselves from our involvement there. After he became President, LBJ increased troops, despite advisors telling him it was a futile effort. Bobby had also come to the conclusion that we needed to get out of Vietnam, and was gaining ground in his presidential campaign by running on an anti-war platform.

Both brothers were committed to civil rights efforts, and felt that our humanitarian efforts in our own country and around the world were the best way to serve mankind. They truly saw the promise of our country, and the good that it could do for all. It's ironic that those born into such privileged circumstances would be so committed to helping those who were less fortunate.

Ted lived to carry on the fight. I know that not everyone likes him, and I didn't always like him myself. However, I feel that in his latter years, he redeemed himself. He seemed to get a grip on his addictions and seemed to settle down with his wife Vicki, working towards passing legislation that would help the least among us. Ted got to spend his whole life in service to his country; so did John and Bobby, but their lives were cut cruelly short. How can you not wonder how things might be different, what might have changed in our atmosphere and direction, if these two bright, compassionate, and remarkable young men had been able to continue in their efforts to serve our country?

It seems like things are out of control in America right now. The rhetoric is bountiful, the passions are running high, and civility and honesty seem to be at an all-time low. However, I think it's important to keep in mind that things have been much worse in the past. Just forty or so years ago, there were riots in the streets, violent protests, kids being shot on college campuses, and three of our very best got bullets to the head, ending their promising lives just as they were getting started.

I feel as passionately as anyone about politics; you all know that. I am not afraid to offer my opinion, and I have been known to piss people off because of it. But I never, ever want us to return to the atmosphere of the '60s, when those who dared to protest or dared to put forth ideas that strayed from the status quo were killed for their beliefs. Not just silenced, not put in jail...killed. We can disagree in this country and that is part of what is good about it, and about us. Crossing the line from disagreement to violence is an unacceptable option.

I get in some lively discussions with some friends on Facebook. One advocates very aggressive tactics, basically doing whatever is needed to win; the other says that such tactics solve nothing, and that stooping to such levels does us no good. I'm somewhere in between. Violence is no answer, and I will never condone that. Lies and deception is also not acceptable. I want to see aggressiveness, though, in responding to the lies and deception that are perpetrated by the GOP. I'm tired of being conciliatory when I hear people like Christine O'Donnell talk about how evolution is a myth, or Jan Brewer talk about fallacious beheadings in the Arizona desert. We can't just say, "Oh, you're entitled to your opinion!" In cases like that, I think it's important to say, "No, that's wrong, and here is why."

I know that some will not be swayed by facts and logic. Those people are beyond reach, and I refuse to argue with them. But there are some who still cling to a little reason and a little respect for the facts, and I still think it's worthwhile to try to reach them.

I also think it's important to ask those who espouse anger and violence (including Sharron Angle, who has spoken of "Second Amendment solutions" to those who oppose her) if they really want our country to return to the dark days of the '60s, in which people were killed in cold blood because some nutcases took the rhetoric just a little too much to heart. Sarah Palin seems to get off on the culture and the language of the gun, exhorting her toadies to "Don't retreat...reload!"

I would urge anyone who thinks that is funny, or who carries a gun to a political rally, or who believes that violence is any sort of a solution to read up on the events of the '60s. It was not a pleasant time in our history, with much civil unrest and people being hurt and killed. It bothers me greatly that people are so ignorant of history that they would want to repeat it. Read about the grief that gripped our country during those dark days. Look at the picture of the tiny little John, Jr. saluting his father's coffin, or the picture of the Kent State student wailing over the dead body of her friend who was killed by National Guard troops. Investigate what happened when Bobby Kennedy gave a speech in Indianapolis when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed; numerous other cities around the country were gripped by riots, but Indianapolis stayed calm because of Bobby's compassionate and masterful words.

King-RFK-shot I know that there are quite a few who want our President dead. Death threats against Obama are up over 400% from what President Bush faced. The hate mongering of people like Beck, Limbaugh, et al fuels the fire and provides perceived legitimacy to those who wish to do the President and his family harm.

It is one thing to be passionate about politics. I certainly am, and people like John and Bobby Kennedy were (not that I'm comparing myself to them...not by a longshot!). That is a good thing. Passion to the point of violence is quite another thing, and after over four decades, you'd think we'd have progressed beyond that. We haven't, and that makes me very sad.

I asked "What if?" in the title of this entry, wondering what if the young Kennedys had survived and continued to make policy and serve our country. My "What if?" has a darker side: what if we've learned nothing from that horrible time? What if someone decides that our current President deserves the same fate? How would our country and how would the world react? People like Beck and Palin and others who foment violence care nothing about such questions, and they care nothing about this country. They only care about their ratings and their place in the public eye.

Look at the second image and ask yourself if that is really what we want again. I would hope that the answer is no, and if so, it is up to all of us to condemn the suggestion of such violence and remind people of what a horrible result such a thing would engender. It breaks my heart just to read about what happened forty years ago; I can only imagine what it must have been like to live through it, both for the families and for the country and for the world.

Is that really what we want again? If not, what are you going to do about it?


  1. I have enough what ifs in my life. It's a difficult way to live!

  2. I remeber writing a post about that girl in the Kent State photo... that picture had her life spin out of control (not that it wasn't already headed that way...). As far as things going back to that time, much more of today's society has evolved beyond the kind of reactionary thinking that powered the protests of the 60's. Also, I truly believe that because intellectually, the reactionaries don't have the capability for organizing for a purpose. For instance, the Tea Baggers are too dim to see that their strings are being pulled by masters who are trying to cut them off once they have completed their show.

    I cannot think that once more people realize how much jeopardy they are in that they won't react out of self preservation. While LBJ did lengthen the Vietnam War, I think he really believed in the social changes and that had the Kennedy's continued on, the movement would have been far too mild and limited.

    It is my belief that Camelot continued would have slowed social progression in the United States. The Kennedy's are a great political family story, but one that is highly overrated and romanticized. Some of the need for the protest was because of JFK's diddling around, regarding changing laws and policy.

  3. Interesting proposition. I battle with the reasoning behind a solid argument and the use of guns. However having a some what understanding of Latin America history, I see the great potential that we will be forced to arms. Chile in particular is a great model to study. Pinochet’s rise to power was supported by the Catholic Church and The Ford corporation. From the beginning, in his regime 1,200–3,200 people were killed, and up to 80,000 were interned, and up to 30,000 were tortured, including women and children. One of the worse military strategy was implemented in Chile, with the assistance of the CIA. The main method of intimidation was the implementation of the “Desaparacidos” or the Missing. Where families that were considered in opposition of his regime will face the sad reality of finding that a loved one was discovered missing and they were ended up never seeing them again. The horror of this practice was put into practice because Pinochet early on realized that if you kill your opponent he or she will become a martyr. However if you kidnap your opponent then the family members had to enter into an agreement with his office. Imagine the thousands of mothers and children that will end up at the government office requesting information about whether their love ones were dead or alive, and the response was we do not know, we will look into the matter.

    So no, I do not see much hope for our situation, I do not think that American corporations are going to give in an inch. Their mayor concerned is their wealth and their insatiable greed, and they have the back up of the religious right that have no trouble condemning those that are not like them.

  4. Hi Beth,
    These days I'm not particularly fond of either party. Maybe we'd all be better off writing-in Edith Keeler this November!

  5. I am so tired of the negative adds and blather. I wish there were more debates to get true issues out in front of voters instead of sound bites.

  6. Hi Beth, sorry to have missed reading all you blogs lately, just trying to catch up again.
    I actually do remember that dreadful time for your country and pray that it will never ever return. I just can't for the life of me understand your tea baggers, with there tiny wee brains.
    love Sybil


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