Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sidewalk Requium, Los Angeles June 5th & 6th

The title is from a Chad and Jeremy song on The Ark. It's about what happened 40 years ago today.

I was a junior in high school, days away from finals, and having a little trouble sleeping. I got up and read a piece in the previous Sunday's New York Times Magazine about Senator Robert Kennedy's run for the presidency. Martin Luther King had been killed two months earlier. John Kennedy's assassination was on people's minds. I didn't turn on the television for fear of waking my parents, and went back to bed for a bit before my father woke me with the news that Senator Kennedy had been shot in Los Angeles. It hit me hard.

I went to school in tears and kept a transistor radio (remember them) with me to check the news throughout the day. It wasn't good. My Republican social studies teacher had no sympathy (in November she would dance with glee wearing a Nixon button) and, in a town with few Democrats, there weren't a lot of people with whom to bond.

On Thursday morning, my father woke me with the news that Bobby Kennedy had died during the night.

It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. This morning when I was driving into work, KNX had a radio announcer talk about being there, interspersed with his actual audio feed of the time. I just started to cry, like it happened today.

About a month ago, people with whom I graduated from high school got in touch with me about a list-serve they set up for our class. The other day, several talked about where we were when we found out John Kennedy was assassinated. I learned about it when I went into my 7th period math class at about 1:45 in the afternoon and one of my classmates announced it. A bit later, the school intercom came on and we all heard a news broadcast that President Kennedy had died. It was a shock for everyone, on a par with Pearl Harbor or, now, the planes going into the World Trade Center.

Robert Kennedy's death didn't hit most people that way, but it did me. Perhaps it was because he had just taken the California primary and it was a matter of seeing such incredible promise smashed beyond repair in a split second. More likely, it was watching someone in a position to do great good being ripped from the scene just after he had worked to calm the country after the murder of Martin Luther King. It was the final crushing loss of hope for my country. Despite any flaws which have been revealed since his death, he had passion, drive, a great desire to help people who were less fortunate than himself, and I doubt he'd ever apologize for being a liberal.

I've got The Ark in vinyl, since I bought it close to 40 years ago, but it is now available on CD. I'd also recommend viewing Emilio Estevez's film Bobby.

Today, there were three lovely pieces by Bobby' children in the New York Times about their father and Patt Morrison did a piece in the Los Angeles Times wondering why the Ambassador Hotel wasn't saved as a place where history took place. Recommended reading, all.

And now, I'm going to take my friend Melinda Snodgrass' advice and have cautious hope for the future of a country where, in 2008, the two leading Democratic candidates for President of the United States were a black man and a white woman and it is still during my lifetime.


Grey Horse Matters said...

I remember all the things you are describing, all the assassinations, all the feelings of despair and hopelessness for this country. While it's a good thing the democratic parties two candidates show how far we have come, it also shows how behind we still are. The media coverage of Hillary's and Obama's campaigns were so unfair and one sided and favored one candidate over another. I can't help but feel a little disappointed even though it is now 2008, it sure doesn't feel like all that much progress has been made. Women are still second class citizens in most of the country.

M. C. Valada said...

Watching and listening to the commentators this morning just reinforces what you've said. Many are the men who fought tooth and nail for the Presidential nomination and then wound up on the same ticket. I don't recall any garbage about "giving up principles" to chose a VP who might help win the election for the party. There is very much a double standard at play.

Early in this cycle there were prognostications that blacks wouldn't vote for Obama and women wouldn't vote for Hillary. Wrong on both counts. But far fewer men appeared to be willing to vote for Hillary than were willing to vote for any man running.

I will support Barak Obama for President, no matter who he choses for his VP, because the alternative is just too awful to contemplate. But I do expect it to be a bloody fight, because the Republicans always play divide and conquer. It's a strategy, along with fear-mongering, which has worked for them for a very long time.