HAPPENING NOW

(Originally published on June 10, 2019)


On June 10th, 1963,  in a speech at American University, President Kennedy asked his fellow citizens to learn to live with their worst enemy.


Taught for decades to hate and fear Soviet Russia as a matter of national faith, locked in a cold war that almost destroyed the world eight months earlier during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the President nevertheless asked us to reexamine our attitudes towards the Russians, the arms race, and “the most important topic on earth: world peace.”


Not a peace "enforced on the world by American weapons of war,” he said.  "I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living…not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women…”


He reminded us that Russia had lost at least 20 million people in the fight against Nazism, a staggering sacrifice that the United States and the European Union recently ignored as they commemorated the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day without inviting the Russians.


Kennedy pointed out that both Russia and the U.S. were allocating “massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty, and disease.”


He argued that war no longer made any sense in an age where “the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to generations yet unborn.”


He proposed and later signed a treaty to ban atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons as a step toward “total and complete disarmament.”


In short he proposed an end to the Cold War.  In so doing, he signed his death warrant.

In a country that had become a military empire in all but name, John Kennedy’s words and actions constituted nothing short of treason.  Or so we know it seemed to the generals, admirals, covert operators and military contractors whose power derives from creating tensions, not easing them; in developing enemies, not disarming them.  Ever since the Missile Crisis, in back-channel communications with the Soviets, Kennedy had been doing exactly what the defense establishment feared most: waging peace.


Their disdain for Kennedy’s peace overtures was so well known that it inspired a best-selling novel, Seven Days in May, the story of a military coup against a president who was too willing to negotiate.  Kennedy thought the book so relevant and the threat to democracy so acute he encouraged director John Frankenheimer to make it into a movie.


In his American University address, the President chided the Russians for suggesting that “American imperialist circles are preparing to unleash different types of wars . . . the political aims of the American imperialists are to enslave economically and politically the European and other capitalist countries . . .[and] to achieve world domination . . . by means of aggressive wars."


But as history has shown, the Russians were right. “Imperialist circles” in the U.S. were planning for war, first in Vietnam, then Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.  The major obstacle standing in their way was the President himself.


Five months later in Dallas, Texas, those  same forces murdered him in a coup, about which there is little actual mystery.


On this 56th anniversary of President Kennedy’s American University peace speech, as Pentagon war planners seek to reignite the deadly tensions of the Cold War,  sign the petition to demand a true reckoning with the four assassinations that led directly to our current national predicament. Listen to the entire American University address and remember that “wherever we are, we must all, in our daily lives, live up to the age-old faith that peace and freedom walk together.”

(Originally published on JUNE 6TH, 2019)

On June 6th, 1944, Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy for the final assault on Hitler's armies.  Thousands of American soldiers arrived on the battered coast of Europe that day, carrying with them the hope of a new world, free from want and fear.

On June 6th, 1968, the last American leader to embody that hope died, the victim of assassination.


Robert Francis Kennedy had announced his presidency on a platform that would seem bizarre to us today:  "I run to seek new policies - policies to end the bloodshed in Vietnam and in our cities, policies to close the gaps that now exist between black and white, between rich and poor, between young and old––in this country and around the rest of the world. I run for the presidency because I want the United States of America to stand for hope instead of despair, for reconciliation...instead of the growing risk of world war."


Three months later he would be dead, the last in a series of four history-distorting assassinations that began with his brother, the president, and carried on through human rights champions Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.


The spirit that stormed the beaches of France in 1944 had grown sick.  Dwight D. Eisenhower had led the United States to victory against the Nazis; by 1961, he felt compelled to warn his fellow countrymen that a “military-industrial complex” had actually won the day and now posed a mortal threat to democracy.


Seven years and a string of political murders later, up to our necks in the bloodbath of Vietnam, the inner-cities in rebellion, the needs of millions of poor Americans ignored, Robert Kennedy tried to shake us out of our sickness: "We cannot continue to deny and postpone the demands of our own people, while spending billions in the name of freedom elsewhere around the globe".


This June 6th, remember the spirit of hope that won in Europe and the last soldier to die in its defense at home, Robert Francis Kennedy.

Sign the petition, and help revive the spirit.