Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lessons from the conservative side of Bobby Kennedy!

Some hurried thoughts from a new biography of the life of Robert F. Kennedy

One of the most thrilling things about hearing authors talk about their books is the great insight, knowledge and above all, enthusiasm they bring to their topic. Larry Tye more than exceeded that as he spoke about his book, "Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon".   The elderly audience was, of course, aware of Bobby's enthusiastic support for Joseph McCarthy, one of the all-time most sinister and reviled figures by liberals,  Bobby was not only on his staff in his "shameless " hearings, but he went against his older brother's wishes and attended McCarthy's funeral in 1957 as the only Democrat in attendance.

I was mesmerized by the talk and found some interesting parallels with our present election and the one that Bobby was prevented from entering because of his assassination by Sirhan Sirhan. And while I'm working to soon share my deeply held feelings about the election, I felt a compunction to immediately share some thoughts.
  1. Both the present election and that of 1968 were noteworthy for charismatic figures attractive to varied segments of the population: Eugene McCarthy and Bobby and Donald Trump and Bernie.  
  2. The country was extremely divided and young people were aroused as never before by causes they firmly believed. Certainly this is true again for two groups of the population, the "underclass" that Trump is appealing to and youthful voters who rally to the many causes that are espoused by Bernie.
  3. Humphrey's defeat of McCarthy and the death of Bobby Kennedy silenced many young voters and caused them to be disenchanted with the system.  While protests continued, there was no effort to join with the establishment to counter the reactionary forces that maintained control.
  4. How dramatically Bobby changed from the searing lessons that life thrust upon him. From a father who supported right wing causes and bigotry and McCarthy supporter, he became a champion for racial justice and all important liberal causes. In my personal experience in responding to youth in a series of AMAs, I was appalled more than once to see that my present views were unacceptable because I had once voted (in my innocence) for Richard Nixon. How important it is in looking at candidates or anyone, that we understand the full scope of their life, not just single events or skills.
In many ways I see the election of 1968 as one of the three previous critical elections of my lifetime.  TO ME, HOWEVER, NONE OF THEM EQUALS OUR PRESENT DIVISIVE CONTEST!

As a former history teacher, I truly believe,that we MUST learn from the past.  Tye's book  provides us with that opportunity.
  1.  I sincerely hope that young people will continue their activism and become involved in ALL aspects of the political system and not give up on the democratic system, and
  2. that voters will look beyond flamboyance, fascist calls for law and order and divisive appeals and look at the total trajectory of candidates lives.    I trust they will see the many difficulties Mrs. Clinton has faced (and overcome) in working to make an inclusive village out of our richly diverse American society.
Next week I'll truly try to express my strongest feelings. That one of the most vitriolic undercurrent themes of the Trump campaign is SEXISM!

But recalling Bobby Kennedy and the McCarthy hearings I remembered one of  the most searing statements I have ever heard, the turning point in a divided countries response to McCarthyism, when Army legal counsel, Joe Welch asked of the Senator, "At long last,have you left no sense of decency?"

After some of the statements and position of Donald Trump, I felt like asking the same question.

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