Sunday, January 09, 2011

…comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.



6 people were killed during a constituent meeting - U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; Christina Green, 9; Giffords’ aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

13 were wounded and United States Congresswoman Giffords is included in that number.

Officials have said that Congresswoman Giffords was the target of this attack.

As many have said in response to this horrific crime, an attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.

I will add that an attack on one individual who is meeting in the public square in an expression of their 1st Amendment right is an attack on us all.

As someone who regularly attends constituent meetings, I was particularly moved by the death of Christina Green.  Christina had recently been elected to student government and was invited to attend the constituent meeting by a neighbor who thought she would get a kick out of seeing politics in action.

I’ve often urged my voter education students to do the same…to meet with those elected to represent them in government. 

And it breaks my heart that this 9-year-old girl did indeed see a side of American politics in action at that constituent meeting.

Oh yes, that just breaks my heart.

There is a lot we don’t know about the accused murderer and his motivations.

What we do know is that many of us, upon hearing news of this crime, thought of those crosshairs placed over targeted districts on websites and of the attacks on Congressional district offices during the health care reform debate.

That our minds went there…and that some sought to cleanse their web presence of such images and calls to arms…is telling whether those things turn out to be related to this crime or not.

And so now we should turn inward…examine how we express our frustration and anger and disagreements. 

This crime should not…must not…silence those who gather in the public square.  Nor should it empty the square of the people.

It should inspire all of us to act on the why behind where our minds went when we first heard of this incident…to look inward and take care for, as Congresswoman Giffords said in response to crosshairs being placed over her district during the 2010 election, there are consequences.

Let us begin that work even as we remember those who are struggling for life…even as we mourn those who have been taken from this world through this act of violence.

I will do the same, reflecting first on Senator Robert Kennedy’s speech delivered April 4th of 1968 upon learning of the death by assassination of Martin Luther King earlier that day.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some -- some very sad news for all of you -- Could you lower those signs, please? -- I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black -- considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible -- you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization -- black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with -- be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond, or go beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poem, my -- my favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote:

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King -- yeah, it's true -- but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love -- a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past, but we -- and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

And let's dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

May we all seek to gain that wisdom.  

12 comments:

Nita said...

BTW, did you see the "In the Crosshairs" list posted by Sarah Palin on her Facebook page "TARGETING" Democrats who voted for Health Reform? Wanna guess who was on the list?? It's a bit frightening...

numol said...

Whenever I'm scared by something on the news, I need to remember that there are people like you whose words will make things clearer. The clarity in this case does not make this any less horrifying, but it is powerful to hear it and powerful of you to speak it. Because knowledge really is power.

I would like to quote/link to this post on my blog, would that be okay with you?

Shark-fu said...

Yes, link and quote as you wish. Just make sure you credit RFK with anything from the speech at the end!

Aimee said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I had never read the speech in it's entirety, and I must say I was extremely moved.

There is nothing any of us can do except use whatever pulpit we have to strenuously object to hatred, dehumanization, violent rhetoric, and violent acts. Thank you for using yours.

aimee

Anita said...

Thank you for posting this today. It always surprises me how much wisdom and comfort I find in that brief, spontaneous speech Robert Kennedy wrote himself on the way to this scheduled event. I return to it time and again when politics and public events turn frightening and almost always I weep, remembering those days, those deaths.

Sometimes I brush off my feelings and quip, "Oh for a politician who can quote Aeschylus," but most often, I am grieving for what seems the loss of wise leadership, the lack of civility in public discourse, and the scarcity today of the kind of dedication to the cause of justice embodied in Dr. King and Robert Kennedy.

Anonymous said...

After reading the article regarding the shooting, I am so sad. This is what happens when people foolishly do things like create crosshairs lists. This is what happens when you stir up hatred, discontent and dark emotions. This is what happens when you allow people to walk around with guns that hold 32 bullets and they are willing to use them all, then re-load. This is what happens in a nation to immature to really move forward and evolve. This is the darkness that descends and the pain that rises.

msblkwidow said...

Thank you so much. I really don't know where I am on this senseless massacre. There are so many thoughts running through my head. First, I wanted to sit quietly and cry. Then, I want to get angry and throw something.

I have stayed focused on the political environment since 2006 - the year I retired from education. In the past, I've not been afforded the time to keep abreast of current events...only after the fact. But since 2006, I've kept myself knowledgeable of everything that has occured from the time (then) Senator Obama announced his run for the presidency. My television has been set to CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, and yes, a few times Fox News. So, I know exactly when the venom was injected into our politics. It was the day Sarah Palin arrived.

I hear people saying that Sarah Palin (wretched Crossbow Map) can not be connected to the Tucson shootings. I beg to differ. She set the negative climate and all others joined the bandwagon. Sarah was allowed the chance to test the waters. What she said and did during the McCain campaign actually went unchallenged. You know the end of that story.

I am glad to have a place to voice my thoughts and want to thank all here for your thoughts.

littlem said...

"That our minds went there…and that some sought to cleanse their web presence of such images and calls to arms…is telling whether those things turn out to be related to this crime or not."

This.

It's terrifying to me how much equivocating is going on.

Thank you for taking the time and energy, and risk, to set us all straight.

(Again. :-) )

libhom said...

The reason that so many of us realize that Sarah Palin's terrorist gun site map was a set of instructions that the shooter followed is that we think logically.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the words of RFK. I had forgotten them although I did hear them at the time...Thank you.
--Margot

Anonymous said...

I hate to be a spoilsport and I understand what you are saying about the power of words but using Kennedy's about MLK was a poor choice of them. Considering HE was the head of the CIA at the time and was using every dirty trick in the book including wiretapping Mr. King to discredit him to suit the Democraps own worthless ends. and I agree about Palin funny how now all of a sudden she doesn't want anyone to place blame when she had NO problem doing so after Fort Hood.

Shark-fu said...

Anonymous...
Um, RFK was a Senator when he gave that speech...not the head of the CIA. Not that he was above some heinous mess.

I find comfort in his words because of his experiences, good and bad, and because of his actions in government, good or bad.

But hey...thanks for the feedback.