What Bobby Told Us.
There is a school of thought that would have you drink a cold drink in the cold to warm you up, drink a hot drink in the heat to cool you down, and play some serious blues music when you’re blue to cheer you up. I’ve tried it and I’m not sure I can recommend it, but for various reasons I have been reading up on the truly miserable year that was 1968–Vietnam, the assassinations of King and Kennedy, and the political rebirth of Richard Nixon—I could go on.
I don’t believe my reading has made me feel any better about 2017, but as a reward for my research, I came upon a statement by Bobby Kennedy—a hero for my generation, who was shot down in his prime. I imagine sending his statement to Washington—to the Trumps and the Ryans of this world and watching their reaction. Do you think they would get it? When I think of what we are missing in America right now, I find the words a perfect summary—so here they are:
“We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, nor national achievement by the Gross National Product. For the Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads. . . . It includes . . . the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our children.
And if the Gross National Product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry, or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials . . . the Gross National Product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America—except whether we are proud to be Americans”