”What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”
— Robert F. Kennedy
April 4, 1968
Bobby Kennedy made this statement as part of his historic speech in Indianapolis the night Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray, a white man.
After RFK’s speech, delivered to a mostly black crowd in the ghetto of Indianapolis, there were no riots in that city. RFK’s words were able to calm what could have turned into a violent response to the murder of the Reverend King. Other large cities across America that night did erupt in violence in reaction to the slaying of the African-American civil rights leader.
In contrast to what is happening today, the rhetoric we hear from our president and other leaders (both white and black) in 2020 is far from unifying and lack any empathy for those who have suffered injustices. Where are the leaders today who can unite our country? Why are we forced to listen to politicians use language that is toxic, mean-spirited and hateful? Why isn’t the emotion we hear in their voices emotion of humility, acknowledging that they are the problem and not the answer? The rhetoric we are hearing today is fueling the riots and not calming them. How can they not know this?
Secondly, as the words in RFK’s speech confirm, the heart of the problem in 1968 is still the heart of the problem in 2020, and that is the problem of the heart. The noblest of men who have accomplished the greatest acts and deeds, who were revered by all, would refuse a statue erected in their honor because he/she would realize they are still a depraved human being, not worthy of one ounce of praise.
Sadly, the only person worthy of such a statue is being torn from our society as being too divisive, too offensive, and too irrelevant in the 21st century — Jesus Christ — who addressed the issue of man’s heart some 2,000 years ago. If we as citizens of the world would consider just ONE of Jesus’ teachings, our world would be a better place for all, regardless of race or creed. Jesus’ commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself” is beautifully illustrated in His parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke chapter 10. We should all read it sometime. It’s found in the Bible, another book being slowly removed from our society’s moral compass.
Finally, Kennedy used to quote George Bernard Shaw frequently during his presidential campaign. “Some men see things as they are and say ‘why’. I dream of things that never were and say ‘why not?’”
David Compton is a resident of Stephens City.