After this last election, and as the dust settles, I would like to offer these healing words, from Robert Kennedy.
It is not a day for politics. I save this one opportunity, my only event of today, 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 is 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, no matter where he lives, or what he does, can be certain of who next will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed, and yet it goes on, and on, and on, in this country of ours. Why?
What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily: whether it is done in the name of law; or in defiance of the law; by one man, or by a gang; in cold blood, or in passion; in an attack of violence, or in response to violence; whenever we tear at the fabric of our lives which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children. Whenever we do this, then the whole nation is degraded.
Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity, and our claims to civilization alike.
Too often we honor swagger and bluster, and the 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 soles.
But when you teach a man to hate and to fear his brother.
When you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color, or his beliefs, or the policies that 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 one another. Only a common impulse, to meet disagreement with force.
Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done, is too great, to let this spirit flourish any longer in this land of ours. Of course we cannot banish it with a program, nor with a resolution, 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 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 the least, to look around at those of us, of our fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder, to bind up the wounds among us, to become brothers and countrymen once again.