Comforting Ethel Kennedy

On the June 6 anniversary of the death of Robert Kennedy, articles about him abound. One of the most touching carried this bit of news, of which I have been unaware all these years:

Robert F. Kennedy’s body was loaded onto the front of the Air Force jet early in the afternoon of June 6, 1968. His family, holding hands, surrounded the coffin while it was hoisted up. Meanwhile, the various Kennedy friends, relatives and aides who had assembled at Los Angeles International Airport boarded from the stairs at the rear. At one point, D. Paul Sweeney, the Secret Service agent standing by the back door as people filed in, peeked to his right, and spotted something quite extraordinary: Midway down the aisle, America’s three most famous widows were conversing. They spoke only briefly, maybe five or 10 minutes. But they were there, together. Then, for the next 4½ hours, Ethel Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and Coretta Scott King shared a flight over their grieving, wounded, troubled country.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/robert-f-kennedys-final-flight-the-storied-journey-of-the-ride-from-california-to-new-york/2018/06/03/b312c440-66a3-11e8-a768-ed043e33f1dc_story.html?utm_term=.0b054a006902

Neither Jacqueline Kennedy nor the recently widowed Coretta King were in Los Angeles when Robert Kennedy was shot. They went there, to comfort and support a grieving Ethel, and to bear witness to Bobby.

The mid-1960’s began a turbulent era; 1968 was the most turbulent year of all. I don’t mourn the turbulence, but I do grieve the loss of great figures, men and women, who were capable of gestures like this. Can you imagine Michelle Obama doing something like this? I can, in  a heartbeat. Can you imagine Melania Trump? I cannot.

How quick, how abrupt, the fall from grace.

Everyone around Trump, whether they begin that way or not, becomes tarnished by his venality and emotional emptiness. Is the vacant narcissism at the top any less damaging than the death and destruction of the 1960’s? Time will tell.

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