Thursday , May 23 2024
Bobby Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy: Remembering the Morning of June 6, 1968:

“Some men see the world as it is and ask why; others see the world as it might be and ask why not.”

June 6, 1968. The memory is still vivid. I am standing in the incongruously sunny kitchen of my parents’ house getting ready for school. The radio was on. Newsradio 78, WBBM. The news that Robert F. Kennedy had been murdered emerged from the tinny, tiny speakers of the countertop radio. I remember screaming for my mom to wake up. I remember crying. I remember being numb. I remember trembling with anguish. It had only been less than six years since RFK’s brother President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

I was 13 years old. In eight days, I would be graduating from Old Orchard Junior High in the middle class, largely liberal Chicago suburb of Skokie. Already a political activist (thanks, Mom), I’d been working on the Gene McCarthy campaign to the best of my barely teenage ability.

Already the year, not yet quite half over, was bruised and battered, beaten. A chasm lay between generations; older siblings died in Southeast Asia, and our parents could not reconcile the senselessness of meaningless death in the name of a war that should never have been fought.

I was shocked and horrified at the news of Kennedy’s murder, only two months after Martin Luther King also was gunned down. I rode to school in silence, oblivious to the chatter of the other 50 kids. An eighth-grade field trip was scheduled for the morning. The Cantigny War Museum. And the eighth-grade fashion show in the afternoon planned to showcase the marvels of home economics class final projects.

Running into a good friend as we emerged from different busses but both red-eyed and stunned, we knew it simply wasn’t right to go ahead with the day’s planned activities. We need to talk about it. The assassination. The murder of yet another promising political figure in horror and violence of Spring 1968. We were not successful, despite the support of several faculty members.

The day went on; the rest of the week went on; graduation went on. Hubert Humphrey won the nomination later that summer at a political convention like no other in my lifetime. A summer when the army (my drafted brother included among it) was camped out at a base three miles from my home ready to intervene on the streets of Chicago if need be. (I asked my brother back then what he would have done should he have encountered a friend out there on Battlefield Grant Part, Chicago. Would he be able to confront him or her? He couldn’t answer. Then.)

I have often wondered through the years since how the nation might be different had Bobby, had Martin, had John not been gunned down. Would we be here today in 2018, a fractured country standing atop a tinderbox edging ever-closer to the brink of an inescapable chasm? Possibly. Potentially.

The world, itself, is teetering backward on the edge of a cliff, and daily I despair of the growing authoritarian tendencies in Europe, with Donald J. Trump showing the way. Turning a blind eye, encouraging the worst in us to prevail. Would things be different? Does it really matter?

“Some men see the world as it is and ask why; others see the world as it might be and ask why not.”

I read that famous, memorable, brilliant Kennedy quote, taken from George Bernard Shaw, as the words of a visionary leader.

But now it’s 2018, and in its words, I no longer see the idealistic hope of a world on the leading edge of healing, of possibility, and instead see how they might be subverted to fit the world of Trump and his ilk. For they see the world as it is and ask why: Why is the country no longer exclusive domain of the white, the Christian, the straight and the rich? Then they see the world as it might be and ask why not take it all? Take it “back?” All it takes is a few big lies, subversions of the truth, an apathetic Congress, an even more apathetic electorate and a little help from your favorite kleptocrat in Russia.

About Barbara Barnett

A Jewish mother and (young 🙃) grandmother, Barbara Barnett is an author and professional Hazzan (Cantor). A member of the Conservative Movement's Cantors Assembly and the Jewish Renewal movement's clergy association OHALAH, the clergy association of the Jewish Renewal movement. In her other life, she is a critically acclaimed fantasy/science fiction author as well as the author of a non-fiction exploration of the TV series House, M.D. and contributor to the book Spiritual Pregnancy. She Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (

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