Thursday, November 24, 2011

Our Wonder World: The Noble Ideals of Americans

Then there is this quote from Robert F. Kennedy in 1968--when he was seeking the Democtratic presidential nomination.

"Our Gross National Product now is over 800 billion dollars a year. But that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our national wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts . . . the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the GNP does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriage, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud to be Americans."

From Justice, What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel, p. 262

And I thought making money is/was the American ideal.
Times, I guess, they are a-changin'.


ACravan said...

Reading this, including the RFK speech (do you know whether he or someone else wrote it?) brings me back, as so many things do, to Lou Reed's refrain in "Heroin": "I guess that I just don't know." It's difficult to disagree with RFK's sentiments, but of course by using the contrasts he does, he stacks the deck and makes me cynically recall the more negative aspects of his character and my belief that, as Muriel Spark observed: “All politicians simply want to manipulate people; that, mixed with a marked tendency to kleptomania.” The whole human enterprise reminds me of “Carnage Day” on the Discovery Channel or that old BBC wild animal series “Killing For A Living.”

TC said...

I have an entirely different memory-set and value-set here.

Beg to differ with with Curtis's view of the man.

That Bobby quote -- so affecting, bringing back so much, opening the gate to a flood of where-we-were-thens and what-might-have beens.

On 31 January 1968 the Tet Offensive. The beginning of the losing of the war that could not be won.

Private history: got married, left for California, car-wrecked on the Ohio pike.

4 April, Martin Luther King shot dead in Memphis. Cities torn by riots.

5 June, Bobby shot dead in LA.

Inside and outside histories, from back then, still confused (and confusing).

I wish Bobby had lived.

I wish all of us would have lived, would and will sometime live, before it's all over.

During those months, it seemed there was nowhere to hide.

(Is there somewhere to hide now?)

ACravan said...

I have the same (or a similar) memory set as Tom describes and also remember the values he ascribes/assigns to those memories. Unfortunately (I mean this sincerely), I no longer trust them. Yesterday, some positive unfiltered memories of that period came back reading obituaries of the New York Times reporter and later columnist Tom Wicker, who always seemed a bright, clear, liberal voice of experience. Unlike Ben Bradlee, for instance, he never sullied his reputation by turning into the gatekeeper of any person's or institution's memory. I guess one or two too many JFK-era mini-series have affected my brain, although I highly recommend the book The Other Mrs. Kennedy by Jerry Oppenheimer, which recounts the life of Ethel Kennedy and the Skakel family and contains some remarkable anecdotes from the late 1940s and early 1950s concerning the Kennedy-Skakel social world in New York and Connecticut. Curtis