Mar 18, 2007

Bobby

The date is June 5, 1968. The place is the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, headquarters for the Kennedy Presidential Campaign. On this day the California Primary is taking place, a crucial point in the Senator from New York's run for President. Bobby the film, isn't a movie about Senator Robert Kennedy, he never appears in the film, rather it is about the people in the hotel on this critical day and the impact his life has on them. Emilio Estevez has written and directed an ambitious film that attempts to give a snapshot of life in America at the time. He mostly succeeds, creating an intelligent film that ultimately is very moving. There is huge cast of characters and we see their day unfold, whilst real footage of RFK is spliced into the film. We see the hotel manager (William H. Macy), who is having an affair with a receptionist (Heather Graham), behind the back of his beautician wife (Sharon Stone). He is also in conflict with the food and beverage manager (Christian Slater), who treats his minority staff (Laurence Fishburne and Freddy Rodriguez) with utter contempt. There is also a young couple (Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood) who are marrying so he won't be sent to Vietnam. An older couple, a permanently drunk singer (Demi Moore) and her exasperated husband (Estevez) have their own problems as well. In the heart of the Kennedy campaign we experience the day through the eyes of various young men (Joshua Jackson, Nick Cannon and Shia LaBeouf). Also in the cast are Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen who lend their acting skills to the movie. With so much going on the results can be a little uneven, but I found myself mostly captivated by the ever changing cast of characters, with the real life footage of RFK always adding a touch of gravitas. However the closing scenes will have you close to tears. As the assassination of Bobby plays out in the hotel, the action is silenced and a long speech by RFK about the futility of violence is played over the top. This section of the film is a moving experience that will stay with you for days. Ultimately it gave me the feeling that in these days of political leaders that we are lumped with like George Bush and John Howard that I can only hope that maybe one day such an inspiring and charismatic leader like Robert Kennedy will come along again.

This is well worth taking the time to read-
RFK Speech "On the Mindless Menace of Violence", Cleveland, April, 1968.

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.

Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.

I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

2 Comments:

  • At March 18, 2007 , Blogger Pix said...

    you make me wish i saw more movies!

    another brilliant review!

     
  • At April 01, 2007 , Blogger Sativarg said...

    Thank you for this documentation of these bright words. Our world needs bright words in such dark times. It seems, so few are willing to speak with such clarity the things that must be said to raise up the eyes and hearts and expectations of our worlds people. Its not so much just that America needs these words; because now the whole world needs them. Why have they shot the messenger? Who now will speak the truth? Whose words will lift our hearts and ideals and protect us from the Sliding baseline syndrome that has become our "business as usual"?

     

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