I made a choice last week to do something I haven’t done since I was 13 years old.
I decided to participate in a political rally.
Let me give you some background. In 1968 my father was stationed at Offuit Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska. I was a middle school student. My social studies teacher was a man named Mr. Davee and I argued with him all the time about politics and I wasn’t always eloquent or polite about it. I don’t know how he put up with my smart ass. But he did. And even though we argued, I can’t, to this day, tell you whether he was Republican or Democrat. He encouraged me and the rest of his students to think.
When I found out that Bobby Kennedy was coming to Omaha for a campaign stop in April, I had to be there. I’m not sure to this day what he inspired in me because my parents were strong Republicans. Maybe it was a way to be independent from them. But I do remember that I felt very excited about him, his energy, his vision for the country, etc.
What is truly amazing is that my mother actually drove me to this rally. I know she didn’t like Bobby Kennedy that much, and I am sure she didn’t want her teenaged daughter in a crowd of crazed supporters and detractors, but she did take me. She waited in the car. I have to give her credit for understanding it was important to me.
The rally was crowded with people for and against Kennedy. There were hecklers, mainly regarding his stance toward the Vietnam War. I remember thinking how rude they were to interrupt his speech. I don’t actually remember what he said. According to news articles, he talked about getting us out of Vietnam, supporting small towns and family farms. It was definitely a speech tailored to Nebraska.
What I do remember is that it was exciting and that I felt he was a man who would make our country better, stronger, etc. He was young, much younger than other candidates. And, of course he had the Kennedy charm. When he walked down into the crowd, I pushed forward to get closer and maybe to shake his hand. And it worked. I shook his hand and looked him in the eyes. I think he said, ” thank you.” Did he really notice a thirteen year old kid who couldn’t vote pushing her way to the front to shake his hand? Probably not. But it didn’t matter because I FELT that he did notice me. I left that rally feeling great.
I’m sure my parents were chagrined that I would support a Democrat. But, they never said so. And, of course, back then, Democrats weren’t condemning our country and promoting socialism. They allowed me to be an independent thinker.
It was a great time. Kennedy won the Nebraska primary over McCarthy.
On June 6th, 1968 my mother came into my bedroom early in the morning. She never did that unless we were going somewhere or I was late getting up for school. She sat down and said, ” I have something bad to tell you.” I sat up, still half asleep. ” Bobby Kennedy was shot last night and he died. I’m so sorry.”
It was the second time in my life that a Kennedy had been assassinated.
I cried at the loss of so much hope and youthful vitality. I cried at the loss of a man I thought would make our country so much better. I cried because it wasn’t right or fair. My youthful innocence about politics and the nature of humans was shattered. I realized how cruel the world could be to those who stand out and stand up.
I remember Mr. Davee handling the subject in class and talking about how harsh politics could be. He let us grieve about it. And he did tell us that hope was still there, we just needed to keep looking to find it. I will always appreciate him for that.
I never went to another political rally since then. Sure, I supported candidates like Reagan and George HW Bush. But, there was no need to rally. After all, it seemed like even when our side didn’t win elections, the people who did were still Americans and did love this country. That all started to change with Bill Clinton. Also, candidates like Dole and Romney didn’t inspire me.
But, last week I decided to go to a rally for Trump on January 6th in D.C. People tell me that it’s a waste of time. People tell me it could be dangerous. People don’t see the point. Some believe the election is a done deal and we should just move on.
But I think about two things. One, I think of my father who signed up at 19 to go to World War II. He was initially given a deferment because of flat feet but was determined to go. I’m sure people told him it was dangerous and he should be glad to have the deferment. But he realized it was too important for us to fight and win for him to stay out of the fight. He went, flew many missions over Germany, was shot down behind enemy lines and escaped, and spent the rest of his life defending this country as a career Air Force officer.
I also think about that thirteen year old girl in 1968 who didn’t think it was fair that RFK was killed and we were deprived of a potentially great President. She is still inside me. And she thinks that what is happening in this election is not only unfair, but it is a threat to our freedom, the freedom my father and so many others fought for. And she knows that a mediocre political hack like Joe Biden and an equally mediocre shill like Harris will not preserve our freedoms, they will sell them to the highest bidder.
And so I am going. It may be a lost cause.
But I am willing to bet it isn’t