Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, I would only say that I can also          {  pause }       feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed,    and he was killed by a white man."  The pause, real, coming from the guy's heart, and the crowd in Indianapolis, which did not riot as other cities did, was quiet after learning the news of Dr. King's death.  Some skinny little white guy going into the ghetto, the cops telling him no you can't go there, and him telling them back, I'm perfectly fine going down there, it's your problem that you view it so darkly.  And think of how hard that must have been for him to talk about his brother's assassination; that goes without saying.  And here was the way for him to finally talk about it, not to an individual, not to the press on Sunday morning, nor to a therapist or a biographer, perhaps to Jackie, but no real confidant, except Teddy, who knows, but to a crowd, a crowd of people who one might indeed grasp through a Catholic understanding;  that is to say, the poor, the suffering, the mourning.   Here is the guy finally able to talk clear and cleanly about the most horrible thing one could imagine, and after the right amount of time to absorb, one might say, from the blank grief, swollen, numb, un-reactive, unable to, think about it, do anything but stare off, barely able to fix his collar.   Well, the crowd was open to it, seeing it as it was, a real moment, not some fake Nixon Agnew slogans, the pat line about the country not being able to "afford another four more years of so n so."   And they listened when he slipped in a lesson from the Greek poet Aeschylus who knew that when pain fell drop by drop upon the soul there was the deeper truth, through the awful grace of God, wisdom.

Family legend is that we had moved from Amherst, and now in another college town that same year 1968, in an old house that was open to be rented, perhaps due to a strange story that locals had a dark sense, of involving something creepy that might have happened in front of the fireplace in the front room, and when the awful news that Robert F. Kennedy was dying we rented a television.  And it happened that an old family friend from Amherst was visiting, another professor type, a fellow mom had been deeply disappointed by when she found out he was engaged to a Sanskrit scholar years before, in her not too distant undergraduate days.  When the last brother Ted spoke on TV from the New York Cathedral, the 'my brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw war and tried to stop it, saw suffering and tried to heal it'' eulogy, my mother had to tell this clever guy, a Beowulf scholar, to be quiet, to shut up.  She had to speak up and say, as women have the best sense of morality, "(shut up), he's giving his brother's eulogy.  He's giving his brother's eulogy."  What the brother had said about him was, simply, basically, true.  The man being a gift to America, if you think about it, if you think of all our stories about how we got here, how we all need a little bit of support and encouragement that drier minds don't always provide, smart as they think they might be.  Well, people responded to him.  He might even have had enough delegates.  Maybe he could have ironed out Chicago, the meeting of juvenile selfishness of blind protest that only antagonizes the need for Police order, the self feeding nightmare (that ultimately achieved little but fostering the likes of Reagan, destroyer of cooperation and beneficial partnership programs, those random things of good hearts and good luck.)   Yes, Bobby could have calmed all that down, told them to be peaceful, having the credential for it.  (Instead some hothead uneducated idiot from yet another part of the world where that happens, found in hotel pantry hallway, with a pistol, as if to express some difference of opinion.... some weird little guy like a Booth caught in his own theater drama, who knows, even drugged in some way.)

I wondered if I heard that somehow, at age three, who knows.  'Til this day, it always gets me, the Kennedy stuff.  As it should.  Nixon won that year.  George Wallace fucked the whole thing up, one might argue, an early tea party from the old South that still stood in resistance to the Union, bitter, now wanting any thing but libertarian  right of way to impose its own order.

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