New Church Life NCL May/June 2018 - Page 88

n e w c h u r c h l i f e : m ay / j u n e 2 0 1 8 simmering with racial tension. Into this tinder box stepped Robert Kennedy, then a candidate for president of the United States. Kennedy learned of the assassination on his way to address a black audience in Indianapolis, Indiana, already stoked with anger. He was advised to skip the event because of the threat of riots and fear for his safety, but knew he had to do what he could to calm a volatile nation. On a brief plane ride he wrote what has been hailed as one of the great speeches in American history. It was brief, soaring, powerful – likened to the Gettysburg Address that Abraham Lincoln outlined on the back of an envelope while riding a train to the battlefield. Kennedy acknowledged the seething frustration of the crowd but appealed to “the better angels” of their nature. He reminded them of King’s own commitment to “replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.” Quoting the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, he said: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” What was needed in our country then – and always – he said, “is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.” He pleaded for unity, not division, and encouraged the whole country “to dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: ‘to tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.’” There were riots throughout much of the country in the days that followed, but not in Indianapolis, where the crowd dispersed calmly in response to Kennedy’s plea. The following day he gave a more formal speech to the whole nation “On the Mindless Menace of Violence.” Sadly Robert Kennedy became a victim himself when he was assassinated two months later in Los Angeles. In the almost 2,500 years since Aeschylus’ plea “to tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of the world,” the call has only become more insistent. Aeschylus was right and Kennedy was right, and we all have a role in this enduring challenge. As we read in Arcana Coelestia 8893: “As soon as the good of love has been implanted, conflict comes to an end and rest takes over; for now the person is brought into heaven and is led by the Lord.” (BMH) “every right has its limits” This was the message on a sign carried by one of the protesters in the wake of the school shooting by a deranged man in Florida. The sign’s specific reference was to gun rights, but it proclaimed a general principle that applies to all 264