Bobby Kennedy was assassinated fifty years ago today. Much more has been written about the death of his older brother John F. Kennedy. But the death of Bobby, our once-and-future president, had even more impact on my generation than JFK’s. Why?
We’d just come of age, and many of us would be voting for the first time (the voting age had been lowered at the start of the 60s). Bobby’s assassination, just two months after our other hero Martin Luther King’s, was the unthinkable second in a two-strike attack on everything we cared about. Bobby had greater strength of character than his brother, and like Martin was a champion of civil rights.
It was the most divisive era of the 2oth Century. We were culpable in that division, of course. But we were also dedicated to fixing it. And no one had seemed as capable of carrying our candle as Bobby. So we mourned. Hard. We wanted social justice, and we wanted it now!
Were we right about everything? Of course not. Youth are idealistic and tend to want to fix the government so it can fix everything—and everyone—else. As we aged, we learned that human culture is not as simple as we want it to be—because humans aren’t as simple as we want them to be. But we did get some things right.
The current generations (Millennials and Gen Z-ers) are coming into their own in the most divisive era of the 21st Century (so far). Yes, they’re culpable in that division, but they also want to fix it. They want social justice, and they want it now!
Are they right about everything? Of course not. But they care. Passionately. Perhaps the last generations, Boomers and Gen X-ers, can come alongside theirs, yes, even the conservatives among us (I’m a radical moderate myself), and re-light our candle from theirs.
Who, if anyone, will be the new Bobby? I don’t know, but let’s not wait for him or her. Let’s work together to make things better…