Seven years old. Lying on the floor gazing intently upon a scratchy black and white television set. Watching the presidential debate between Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy. Finally, the debate is over: I turn to ask my father and older sister, "Who do you want?" Marilyn was quick to respond, "Nixon." My father, ever the independent, wouldn't say. I added my emphatic, "I want Kennedy!"
My next political memory was purchasing an LP Recording of President Kennedy's inaugural address in the old "Monte Mart"... and then came the Cuban Missile Crisis... and then a dreadful voice over the elementary school intercom: "The President has been shot. Students are to immediately walk home." Just ten years old, yet walking home with the knowing that everything had instantly changed... for everyone in America... But it was to Bobby Kennedy that I had all along been attracted to...
I loved reading of Bobby's attempt to walk fifty miles in twenty-four hours... of daring the rapids of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon... of climbing the newly named Mount Kennedy in the snow... but most of all, for questioning power and standing by the worker living in poverty, the black trapped by decades of Jim Crow and every conceivable barrier erected by prejudice, and the Mexican farmworker in the fields of California... and questioning again power and its unjust, criminal, war in Viet Nam... Bobby marched with Cesar Chavez and broke bread with him... At the very same time a young pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr. was galvanizing blacks in the quest for equality and justice: never mind that black slaves had bent their backs and shredded their souls to build America for their masters: entrenched power resisted and fought back. Lynching, raping, and beating, the KKK and supporters fought everywhere they could: and when such efforts failed, took to bombing and shooting... And in the fields where the farmworkers organized, thugs did their work under the protective eye of watching sheriffs... I saw the stories of John Steinbeck come alive before my teen-age eyes... And Bobby campaigned for President, opposing the war, endorsing the passions of the young, supporting the quest for equality and justice for women, blacks, browns, and reds... And then Martin was gunned down... And then came the California Primary: everyone said that the winner would probably face Nixon for President: what a great birthday present for me! Yeah, Bobby won: but he, too, was gunned down...
But at least we had the music! We had the Monterey Pop Festival and then the Great Mother of Festivals, Woodstock! Yeah, we got shafted by Nixon and his "secret plan" for ending the Viet Nam War: expand it: bomb the hell out of North Viet Nam: bomb and invade Cambodia: destabilize the entire of Southeast Asia: But we marched: everywhere we marched! Everyday I had on my black armband and peace sign in High School... "Power to the People!" "Revolution" "Helter Skelter" and "Give Peace a Chance" were the anthems of the change sought by youth everywhere. Only later would we learn that the million or so anti-war demonstrators who had marched on Washington, D.C. and elsewhere had scared the crap out of Nixon and his "secret plan" of dropping a nuclear bomb on Hanoi was dropped instead: he feared that America's youth would revolt and overthrow the government... so instead of bombing Hanoi he tried to drive our "Working Class Hero", John Lennon, out of the country... He couldn't do that either, though!
The pictures though, oh the pictures: "Give Peace a Chance" sounded different with the pictures of running children, aflame with American napalm: running the dirt paths away from their burning villages... Yeah, John Lennon was gunned down too: but the music goes on: it's harder and harder to smile as you kill: our black President is straddling two worlds: that of Power, and that of the People: sometimes he leans this way, only to be pulled back "that way" by the power of Power: but what if? What if another million or two was to gather this coming beautiful spring in Washington, D.C. and stand in opposition to Power and for the People? Do you see how the bloodied memories we share of John, Martin, Bobby, and John our W.C.H. need to be unleashed from the cages of our broken hearts? Do you see how the blood they poured out upon the soil of America, for America, only needs the activation of our wills to effect the changes that we require!
And what do we require? Let's be clear and let's be loud: we require the radical integrity of peace: we require equality and justice for all, now: we require the absolute end of corporate domination over any aspect of our lives including culture, politics and economics: we require a reverence for our soils, our seeds, our air, and our water: we require liberation from greed, unlimited profit, and consumerism: we require guaranteed jobs and a living wage for everyone willing and able to work: we require absolute transparency from our government: we require an end to the arming of the world and gun control on American soil: we require the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and the Get The Money Out Amendment to the Constitution: we require the recognition of food, shelter, health care, education, work, living wages, access to land, and social security as human rights and our rights as Americans: and all of this is just our warm-up act! Our spirituality is "occupy the heart with compassion": and our politics is "occupy power with global transformation". Imagine. Just Imagine!
Why not? And for good measure, what if? "Imagine" says it all... But if you are looking for some guidebooks consider "The Chalice & The Blade" by Riane Eisler, "The Hope" by Andrew Harvey, "The Great Turning" by David C. Korten, and "Occupy Spirituality" by Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox...
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.