The 1968 RFK Speech On Violence That Joe Biden Should Deliver Now

The 1968 RFK Speech On Violence That Joe Biden Should Deliver Now

While Joe Biden's Democratic nomination acceptance speech was well-crafted, deftly delivered, and widely viewed (by many more Americans than watched Donald Trump's), the most important speech of his career—and of the 2020 Presidential Campaign—has already been written, and is just waiting for Biden's touch of humanity.

That speech, delivered by the late Robert F. Kennedy on April 5, 1968, at the Cleveland City Club, has long been overshadowed by the powerful and historic speech he made the night before in Indianapolis, when he learned that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was dead. Kennedy's extraordinarily emotional speech, sharing the pain of losing his own brother to an assassin's bullet, helped keep Indianapolis peaceful that night, when cities across the country erupted in grief, anger, and violence to the news of Dr.King's killing.

While the Indianapolis speech by RFK is available all over YouTube, and taught in speech, communications, and history programs across the country as a shining example of public speaking having an immediate, positive impact, the mostly forgotten address he delivered at the Cleveland City Club the following day—to a mostly wealthy, white audience — is far more relevant to this dangerous moment in our nation's history. The Biden-Harris campaign would be wise to adapt it for delivery immediately, in a troubled American city like Kenosha or Minneapolis.

The Biden-Harris team can get the full text of RFK's speech from the John F, Kennedy Library archives (or use this text, with some italicized additions and transitions of my own).:

…. I have saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about this mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives. (The killing of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor, and the shooting of Jacob Blake are but the most current examples).

This 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.

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 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 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, (and of the clearly preventable deaths of more than 180,000 of our fellow Americans by a current killer called COVID.)

We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire (and to turn those deadly weapons on schools filled with young children, concerts, or stores filled with friends and neighbors, or on crowds of law-abiding Americans of all ages, backgrounds and skin color, exercising their Constitutionally protected rights of free speech and assembly).

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others (as Donald Trump did in 1989, when he took out full-page newspaper ads in NYC advocating the death penalty, for five young men of color who were later aquitted by DNA evidence of committing the crime for which they served years in prison). Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Kennedy continued before the packed Cleveland City Club audience, sounding as if he was eerily foreshadowing the rise of Trump and his supporters among Q-Anon, the Boogaloo boys, and others:

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

Then Kennedy, like many citizens participating in today's Black Lives Matter movement, spoke eloquently of systemic, institutional racism in the United States:

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 a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

… 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. (That doesn't reflect the standard of equal justice under law in this democracy.)

We learn… 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 now 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 human purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

(Pay attention, Donald Trump—this part is all about you.)

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 all. 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.

But, perhaps, we can remember (the teachings of all the great religions of the world): That those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek - as we do - nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness…

(Nothing else matters. That's why we each must rise to meet this moment.)

coronavirus, viral orange blob

Viral Orange Blob Meets Political Orange Blob

If you're not outraged yet by the systematic crippling of public health and science by Donald Trump now that we have the coronavirus serial killer on the loose — ironically, an orange blob of a virus according to electron miscroscopic images from the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases — than you'd better check your pulse. You may already be dead.

Trump's vicious, inhumane and vile ideas while in office have already torn families apart, and inspired right wing fanatics to shoot Jews, gays, immigrants, and people of color. Now, as this new global health threat explodes around the world, his incompetence and malfeasance in office will kill even more people.

The dangerous science and fact-denialist came into office with a vendetta against scientists and any expert whose mind he could not bully into submission. He directed his Agriculture Secretary to eliminate the jobs of some of the most world-renowned scientists; left vacant hundreds of critical public health positions at the Centers for Disease Control, the single most important US Infectious Disease agency, whose leaders Trump is now trying to muzzle.

Trump dismantled the National Security Counsel's office which concentrated on Pandemics and how to deal with them. He fired scientists and long-serving career professionals from key positions across the entire US Government because he saw them as part of the "Deep State." Their only crime was doing their jobs to protect the American people, and telling Trump the truth, on issues as diverse as diseases, food contamination, airline safety and climate change.

But don't take my word for it. Just Google "Trump's War on Science." Some 53 million articles and videos are at your fingertips. His attacks on reason and facts, and especially on scientists, medical health professionals or military experts who understand grave international dangers, go back to the very beginning of his Know-Nothing campaign for President, when the Orange Blob from the High Tower first began calling climate science a "hoax."

As of this week, the coronavirus has infected 83,000 people around the world and killed 3,000. Financial markets have tanked, with many worried about the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by quarantines, flight cancellations, and the postponement of large events — like Venice, Italy's Mardi Gras' festival. All schools in Japan have been closed for the entire month of March. Stock markets in the US, where a few hundred possible cases of coronavirus have been reported, dropped more than 3,000 points in one week — the biggest losses since the Great Recession of 2008.

With the first new confirmed case of an American testing positive for the virus in Northern California — in a town less than 30 minutes from where I live — the actual virus is beginning to replicate itself faster than Trump's 16,000 lies can travel virally on social media. Most frightening about this California case in the Solano County town of Vacaville, is that while no one yet knows how it was contracted, evidence is emerging — through a whistleblower's report — that points to Trump's own Administration spreading it through their abject stupidity and negligence.

In keeping with their pattern of covering-up all truth, Trump and his HHS henchmen are trying to crush a career professional with decades of experience in public health — the whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services — who told of how the agency's political appointees put the lives of more than a dozen of their own health workers at risk. Without training their own front-line employees to take any basic health precautions, HHS hastily send them to Travis Air Force Base in neighboring Solano Country, California, to process the first American travelers returning home from China, who were exposed to the coronavirus.

Within one week, after the unprotected federal workers came in contact with the possibly-infected passengers, one member of the community in Vacaville — who never travelled to China — became infected with the highly contagious virus, went to a local community hospital, where she was initially refused testing for the disease, and may have exposed others. Sent to the University of California Medical Center in Davis for further examination, she tested positive.

The Trump Administration's response to the whistleblower's vital information was to abruptly transfer the career public health specialist, threaten termination, and, of course, deny all of her well-documented allegations. The action perfectly reflects the war against science and the facts going on in all critical agencies of the federal government under Trump's Torquemada like terror-tactics toward the truth.

Two years ago, obsessed with anything Obama, Trump cut the Obama-era health security programs, dismantled the global health security team, and eliminated the highest government office specifically focused on pandemics, located within the NSC. Later the same year, the CDC was forced to cut its' own highly effective preventative efforts against global disease outbreaks by 80%. In an effort to manage the drastic cuts, the agency scaled back on its work by no longer focusing on China, according to an article in Fortune magazine. Trump had killed the very agencies designed to prevent us from being killed by out-of-control diseases.

Fortune also reported that another $30 million from an emergency response pool of money was cut from the Complex Crisis Fund of the State Department (a fund set up by Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state), used to deploy infectious disease experts around the world. By the end of 2018 Trump called for the gutting of $15 billion of the global disease-fighting budgets of the CDC, National Security Council (NSC), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Health and Human Services (HHS) in the process.

So now, with the Trump administration facing a murderous, viral orange monster, and desperate for the funding it eliminated for fighting epidemics and global diseases, a global crisis of enormous proportions is literally in our backyard. This real, not imagined, threat to human life wasn't brought into this country by an illegal immigrant or a terrorist — but by Donald Trump, and his willful ignorance about science and the real world we live in — not the hermetically sealed bubble in which he dwells.

Tragically, we are now all suffering the consequences of Trump's incapacity to grasp anything but the distant memories of his childhood — still stuck in the back seat of his mother's rose-colored Rolls Royce, looking out the vehicle's tinted windows, watching the world he never wanted to come into contact with whirl by, passing through the dirty streets of Queens, NY, and the only Corona he ever knew. Until now.

The Trumps: ‘An Incestuous Intertwining with Organized Crime’

The Trumps: ‘An Incestuous Intertwining with Organized Crime’

As an Italian-American and a former staff member for Mario Cuomo, I’ve been wrestling with how best to express my outrage over the fact that if Donald Trump’s name contained six vowels — like say, Mario Cuomo’s — his Presidential candidacy would be swimming with the fishes; Trump has been in bed with mobsters for his entire professional life.

The list of the Trump family’s — both Fred Trump, who left his son $200 million dollars and a legacy of lying about his wealth and businesses, and Donald’s — ties to organized crime, or “Mob-Nobbing” as Wayne Barrett aptly named it in his book Trump: The Deals & the Downfall, reads like a Who’s Who of Mafioso in the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Areas over the past 45 years. Here are just a few of the law-breaking luminaries or their mob-fronted companies, who can easily be found in Barrett’s book, who either did business with the Trumps, served as their partners (secret or otherwise), or made labor or building problems go away in exchange for cash:

  • Manny Ciminello; construction contractor, racketeer, tied to S & A Concrete;
  • Paul Castellano; head of Gambino Mob; secret owner of S & A Concrete;
  • Fat Tony Salerno; head of Genovese Mob; secret owner of S & A Concrete;
  • S & A Concrete; Mob-front concrete company, run by Nick Auletta; built Trump Tower and Trump Plaza;
  • Willie Tomasello; Fred Trump’s partner on Beach Haven; Genovese associate;
  • Nicky Scarfo; Atlantic City/Philadelphia Crime Boss; Cleveland Wrecking Co;
  • Cleveland Wrecking Company; mob-front demolition co., hired by Trump;
  • Wachtel Plumbing; mob-front co.; hired by Trump in Atlantic City & NYC;
  • Teddy Maritas; mobbed-up head of Carpenters Union; NYC Trump contract;
  • Circle Industries; Maritas’ mobbed up Drywall Co; Trump hired, NYC;
  • John Cody; mobbed-up head of Teamsters Local 282; jailed for racketeering; bragged that “Donald liked to deal with me through Roy Cohn.”
  • Nick Auletta: President of S & A Concrete, mob-controlled cement company;
  • Joe DePaolo; President of Dic Underhill Co; company with alleged mob connections; helped build Trump Village with Fred Trump;
  • Danny Sullivan; partner in SSG, Inc; deal-making arm of Scarfo Mob, negotiated with Trump on land in Atlantic City;
  • Kenny Shapiro; scrap-metal dealer, partner SSG; principle financier for Scarfo’s Philadelphia Crime Organization.

Writing in Politico just last week, David Cay Johnston, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter whose book Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business carefully details Trump’s ties with organized crime, stating:

“No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.”

The torrent of thugs, terrible people, and mob-front businesses Trump and his father were involved with going back more than 45 years permeates every present-day action Donald Trump takes. If Mario Cuomo was in the same room with just one of the mobsters that Donald Trump did business with daily, his political career would have been finished. Instead, Trump shrugs it all off; an amoral actor playing among amoral peers.

Imagine, for a moment, if Cuomo — anytime between 1985-1991 — had gone to a private meeting in a posh New York townhouse with the boss of one of New York’s biggest crime families under investigation by the FBI, the way Wayne Barrett’s book recounts a meeting between Trump and Genovese Crime Boss “Fat Tony” Salerno, who controlled the cement industry in New York. Would the media be silent about such a meeting? Would Cuomo be given a free pass because he was just doing business with New Yorkers?

Even a Mob/Trump meeting broker as unsavory as Roy Cohn, whose long list of organized crime clients were clearly of financial value to Trump, would have been cited as proof that there were Mafia “skeletons” in Cuomo’s closet. The lame argument that “everybody was doing it” in the business would have been no defense for Cuomo, just as it should not be for Trump, especially since other major New York City real estate developers like LeFrak were not doing it, and were, instead, pleading with the FBI to free them of mob’s control of the concrete business. Trump, no friend of law enforcement authorities, just kept quiet and paid his tithe. Such silence would have sentenced Mario Cuomo to political death by insinuation.

Stick a vowel at the end of Trump’s name, and see if his family’s decades-long “incestuous intertwining with organized crime,” as Barrett described the many Trump/Mafia marriages of convenience, would go unnoticed. Does any American who believes in the rule of law and justice really want someone so cozy with Mobsters to have power over the U.S. Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, the IRS, and every other federal law enforcement entity?

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump poses for a photo after an interview with Reuters in his office in Trump Tower, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson