Politics is very much in my mind these days. Barack Obama is the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton has just given her concession speech, and the 40-year anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination has just passed. On a personal note, I’m dealing with the painful awareness of not being a full member of this community, while I’m waiting for my pending citizenship case to be decided.
On June 5, 1968, when Robert F. Kennedy was shot, I was 7 years old and living in Italy. I remember that the news made me very sad. Something about him had touched me deeply, as it had touched millions of Americans who saw in RFK the personification of the hope for a better world for everybody: the blacks, the poor, the immigrants, the minimum-wage workers, and the young people fighting to stop the Vietnam war. Just two months after Martin Luther King’s assassination, the America that desperately needed change was mourning again. It was not just the loss of a man, as extraordinary as RFK was; it was the attempted murder of the belief that progress, peace, equality, and human dignity are possible here and now.
That June of forty years ago, Paul Fusco captured the mourning of the Country: a million people standing by the tracks as RFK’s body made its 8-hour last trip from New York to Washington DC. (video; more about the death of RFK and what he meant for this country in The End of an American Dream: The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy).