Wisdom By the Awful Grace of God
on his shoulders above the crowd
to see a train draped in mourning
pass slowly through our town.
His widow kneeled with all their children
at the sacred burial ground
and the TV glowed that long hot summer
with all the cities burning down." Mary Chapin Carpenter
"Eddy, now don't you run,
you know you're a bootlegger's son,
and you saw just what they've done
to your brothers." Styx
We recently signed up with Netflix and, although it is costing us more than it would to go down to Bl0ckbuster and rent movies, the selection of documentaries is astounding. We just watched... and rewatched... PBS's edition of American Experience on Bobby Kennedy.
Now, I have been a Kennedyite since my first exposure to that administration in my AP American History Class in high school, where my term paper was on the relationship between the Kennedy administration and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Anyone looking for a good book on the topic: Of Kennedys and Kings by Harris Wofford.) But my focus, as is typical I think, was on JFK - the president is the most public face of an administration and, as a high schooler in the middle of nowhere, I did not understand the symbiotic relationship between the brothers enough to pursue it in more depth. In that, I think I did myself, and RFK, a great disservice.
Watching this documentary was, in no small way, transfiguring as, indeed, RFK was transfigured from the 'runt' of the family (his father's word) to the dogged supporter, to the champion of the disenfranchised. I am changed for having witnessed, albeit at a great distance, his change.
It is fascinating also to see history, for thus it is now, in the words and pictures and actions of its creators. Somehow, there is more potency in hearing RFK's words, seeing him speak the words, in Indianapolis informing the crowd of the assassination of MLK, than there is in reading it in print. It has an impact that older history must surely suffer from in comparison.
I finished the documentary, both viewings, weeping for the loss of a man I cannot remember, the loss of his potential, the loss of our own potential through his inspiration.
"He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God." Aeschylus