Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bobby Kennedy and Why Obama Unnerves Me.

Two or three days before Robert Kennedy was assassinated in the early morning hours of June 5, 1968- its hard to remember now - I attended a rally for RFK in East Los Angeles. The audience was almost entirely Mexican or Mexican-American - there were very few of us gringos. The crowd was wildly enthusiastic, to put it mildly. Cries of "Viva! Viva!" rang out everywhere. It felt as if I was at a rally in Central America and Kennedy was not running for President. He was running for "caudillo." I am sure if it were put to a vote of those present, they would have installed him as "maximum leader" for life in a landslide.

I was a supporter of Bobby Kennedy's in those days, but I was unnerved. And it's not just because I knew that his record was checkered, to say the least. A cult of personality was developing and I was beginning to feel nauseated by it. I am having the same feeling about Obama. Every time I hear "Si se puede!" I get queasy. I didn't when I heard it years ago at Cesar Chavez farmworker rallies, when it had a specific reference, but I do here. It's as if rhetoric has been stolen in a form - almost deliberately - devoid of content. "Yes, we can - what?" Nobody knows.

No comments: