A little over eleven years ago, the film, Bobby, was released in Europe—my home at the time. Media interest in his contribution to history had been awakened and I, as the resident American, had been invited to give an interview with Wedi Saith (=After Seven, a Welsh language television program) about my experiences on the day that Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy (RFK) was assassinated.
This gave me an opportunity and a very good reason to research his life so that I had something of value to contribute to the interview.
What I learned was amazing—if what had been written about him was true—and bewildering. Sirhan B. Sirhan was a Palestinian Christian who became fixated on Robert Kennedy before the Six Day War in June 1967. What about Kennedy then triggered his hatred?
RFK was a powerfully motivated man from his earliest days in government in the 1950s. His contribution was already huge before he was murdered: civil and human rights, anti-Apartheid, fighting organized crime and rogue unions. He would have worked to end America's involvement in the Vietnam War much sooner than Nixon—a good 5 years before.
There was no evidence that RFK supported Israel in the Six Day War, but that is the reason Sirhan B. Sirhan gave for his action.
Yet, RFK most likely would have put human rights at the center of the foreign policy of the United States and this may likely have made a significant difference to developments in the Middle East.
How much different would the world be if not for a 24-year-old obsessive? This question rings as true today as it did in 2007.
How much of our personal interests are given as excuses for our obsessions? How deeply do any of us delve into the “bigger picture” to look beyond personal opinion, our particular world view, to consider the exponential ramifications of our actions?
Very few of us will have the impact on the course of history of either Bobby or Sirhan but we sometimes act as though we do. If we have a purpose at all, I believe our greatest contributions are in our personal relationships and especially those with our offspring.
The psychologist, Brenda Wade, when asked what parents should tell their children about tragedies and crises in the world, said to the effect, “Why should your children know anything about these matters?” She enjoined parents not to allow their children to watch the nightly news.
In today’s atmosphere, some parents think nothing of exposing their small children to violence and mayhem for the sake of their own jaded beliefs.
Childhood should be a time of innocence, wonder and limitless possibilities. When we teach our children to hate and fear and judge, we limit their potential to live fully, grow to their greatest expectations and contribute to the best we all can be.
Each new generation can be the greatest or we can spoil their chances with our own blighted vision. If we do that, are we not fulfilling our worst fears for the future?
Writers have always had a role to play, as story-tellers and myth-creators, to enlighten and clarify, not always to expose the worst in us, but to bring a greater vision forward, to stand for the best and the true—the bigger true than the squalid, narrow “real” of the evening news.
In memory of Mollie Tibbets, Kate Steinle and too many others.