As a supposedly lone assassin attempted to kill Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) this past Saturday morning, wounding a total of twenty -- six fatally -- at a political event in northwest Tucson, let us be reminded of the assassinations that filled our political landscape not that very long ago. Violence, especially that committed with handguns, seems to be accepted within American society, for reasons I've never been able to understand and comprehend.
Violence is marketed shamelessly within our culture; sold and unwittingly accepted, and held unabashedly virtuous by many. The Mills River Progressive posted an excellent article this past weekend, decrying "the hate speech, and violent rhetoric", perpetrated by those who have the most to gain through their cultivation of violence as a means to political ends. Not only those who actually pull the trigger, but the violence must end with those who galvanize and condone the metaphoric language of killing, which has become sanctioned and too common. Unequivocally, "enough is enough".
The following is a speech given by Robert F. Kennedy in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 5, 1968, the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Little did he realize that he, himself, would be the fatal victim of an assassin's bullet exactly two months from that day. As you read, or listen to, Senator Kennedy's words, recall the mass hysteria of that dreadful early morning in Los Angeles on June 5th of 1968, when he and five others were wounded in a crazy and chaotic atmosphere of flying bullets, screams, and terror. Remind yourself that the situation in Arizona, this past weekend, was not unlike that horrible day.
Robert F. Kennedy - On The Mindless Menace Of Violence
This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.
It's not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.
Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily, whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, whenever we do this, the whole nation is degraded.
Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression breeds retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our souls.
When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your home or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and to be mastered.
We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, alien men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in a common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.
Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in this land of ours. Of course we cannot banish it with a program.
But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment that they can.
Surely, this bond of common fate, surely this bond of common goals, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look around at those of us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.