On 4/5/68, the day after the King assasination, RFK gave a speech in Cleveland entitled: "On the Mindless Menace of Violence." It was his only public event on that difficult day. That speech is highly relevant to our current situation.
One portion of that speech, in particular, stands out:
We seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands...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 others.
Kennedy's speech was, of course, given in the context of the Vietam War, his opposition to which was the primary basis for his presidential candidacy that year. He was not merely appalled by the pointless destruction that the war was causing. He was even more appalled by the mindset that lay behind it.
On 3/24/68, RFK gave a speech in LA in which he claimed that the war was appealing to the dark side in the American spirit. Specifically, he stated:
All the phrases that have meant so much to Americans--peace and progress, justice and compassion, leadership and idealism...call forth the cynical laughter or hostility of our young and many of our adults. Not b/c they do not believe them, but b/c they do not think our leaders believe them...We do not know where we are going. We have been stripped of goals and values and direction, as we move...from crisis to crisis and danger to danger...This is not simply the result of bad policies or lack of skill. It flows from the fact that for almost the first time the national leadership is calling upon the darker impulses of the American spirit...
When taken in its totality, the tolerance that we have shown for violence in the past 5 years is truly frightening. We have grown accustomed to "a rising level of violence that ignores our claims to civilization." The swagger and bluster of wielders of force like W, Cheney, and Rummy has been honored far too often. Not only do "we calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaugther in far-off lands," but such reports have become a programming staple for cable news.
We now see a Sec. of State who is hopelessly over her head "move from crisis to crisis and from danger to danger." We see no real attempts at diplomacy, as members of this WH don't do diplomacy any more than they do windows. While there are obviously bad policies and an obvious lack of skill, there is, far more disturbingly, an appeal to "the dark side in the American spirit."
There are now 3 far-off lands that have seen horrific destruction on the watch of this WH. Afghanistan is slipping back into chaos, and Osama Bin Forgotten is still at large. Iraq used to suffer from mere anarchy, now it is emboiled in a de facto civil war. Lebanon is still undergoing a bombardment from which it will take decades to recover.
A almost pathological attachment to violence is the fundamental underpinning of the entire FP approach of this WH, esp in its second term. How else can one explain their making Bolton UN Ambassador via recess appointment, and their current attempts to obtain Senate confirmation? They abandoned the pretense of having Colin Powell serve as window dressing. They are no longer interested in even pretending to care about compromise and negotiation.
It is no longer sufficient for the Dems to merely challenge the competence of this WH. It is not sufficient for them to argue that they would achieve the same goals by more effective means. It is essential for the Dems to challenge the fundamental precepts of this WH. It is necessary to state firmly and forthrightly that this WH has willingly abandoned this country's best traditions.
These two speeches from 38 years ago are more relevant to our current situation than almost anything I have heard lately from the current Dem leadership. I long for the day when national Dems shows this level of clarity and forthrightness.