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Violence in Our Time and Our Country


Violence in Our Time and Our Country
June 1968

The most shocking thing about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy was that it did not catch us totally by surprise. Not only had we been conditioned by previous killings of public figures—Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, George Lincoln Rockwell, John F. Kennedy, the list could be extended—but evidence of violence is our daily diet. A large part of our nation has come to feel that we are living at a time when the violence in which America is involved has taken on special qualities. The difficulty, of course, is in making that determination and assessment correctly. It is intolerable to feel that we are simply being swept along on a tide of headlines, news stories, T.V. reports, fact, rumor and speculation about violence in this country. We are driven to seek those obscure forces that direct these tides within our nation.

In considering the assessments that have so far been made it is clear that though one’s vantage point is not all important it is significant. We have been told, for example, that we are a violent people with a violent history; the present is simply a continuation of the past. We have been instructed that America is the most violent nation the world has ever seen just as we have been instructed that our attention to domestic violence indicates an awareness, a sensitivity that few nations could match.

To probe our national history and psyche is not a useless activity. But it would be misleading if it directed our attention away from those areas where the violent energies of the nation are today most evident and most concentrated—in poverty and racism at home and, abroad, in the war in Vietnam. Not many months before he was slain Robert Kennedy said, at a conference devoted to racial justice, that "if we as a nation say that it is justified in killing thousands and thousands of people 12,000 miles from our own country, then it becomes a rather more acceptable instrument for change within the United States itself."

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