On April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech that is referred to as On the Mindless Menace of Violence. Wikipedia has a version of the text which is fairly close to the audio posted on YouTube.
Much of the physical violence that he makes reference to is behind us but the message is still valid. We, as people, should work hard to not inflict suffering upon other people. People need to be afforded the dignity to be who they are without fear of intimidation, violence, ridicule or abuse.
Whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
I cry when I read that. I feel a tremendous amount of shame each time the words register with me. I get no sense of satisfaction knowing that I have done everything reasonable in my power to ease human suffering. I hurt because my actions are hurting others. I haven’t been the man that I can be.
Better is still something that I need to do.
Robert Kennedy was shot and died two months after he gave the speech. The world lost a leader with enough compassion to motivate good men to stay strong in the face of frightening change, to empower them to facilitate the social shift that will eventually become equality of all people. More than 40 years after his death, we are not there. We can get there, but only when each one of us make the decision to judge people not for their race or colour, not for their views or their beliefs, but for their hearts, for their potential for good, and for the actions they take to help ease suffering and promote well being as these are the essential qualities that make up everyone’s humanity.