Yesterday was the 38th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s shooting by Sirhan Sirhan. (Kennedy lived for a few more hours, and actually died 38 years ago today.) Mike Gerber has some compelling thoughts about that and the rest of the greatest hits of the sixties:
When I think of the assassinations now, there is no curiosity or nostalgia; because they have never been definitively solved, I feel that they are still with us. History is fact robbed of its ability to injure; these events still bite. And so, when I saw RFK on Slate today, the long-haired, doom-etched RFK of ’68, I felt the bite again, and not a little dread. JFK’s death was about the unthinkable happening, but his brother’s murder was the world confirming the terrible fact of what it had become. Or maybe, what it always had been.
Forty years on, Kennedy-King-Kennedy looks to me like the moment things started going bad, when control really clamped down from above, and apathy really took root below. Our country is headed in the wrong direction, and without a shred of romanticism, I think that direction was set by the assassinations of the 60s–not only by the loss of those people, their ideas and their ability to inspire, but also by our getting used to unsolved public murder as business as usual. That is a coarsening equal to any suffered by the Roman Republic. Is it merely coincidence that we’ve turned from a country of possibilities to one grinding out the same tragic, hoary imperial script? The country is traumatized, directionless, hurt; and a generation of politicians have risen who are experts at keeping us that way.
We go around in circles, searching for Kennedy-manques, a right wheel turning around a chewed stump where the left wheel used to be. If you don’t like metaphors, here’s a fact: All of the “lone nuts” of the 60s weakened one side of the spectrum, in favor of the other. We may think that’s a mournful coincidence now, but I doubt future generations will.
And that’s not even mentioning Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton and quite a few others who, out of the purest coincidence, all got shot in the head.
The rest is here.