( – promoted by undercovercalico)
Every few days over the next several months I will be posting installments of a novel about life, death, war and politics in America since 9/11. Through the Darkest of Nights is a story of hope, reflection, determination, and redemption. It is a testament to the progressive values we all believe in, have always defended, and always will defend no matter how long this darkness lasts. But most of all, it is a search for identity and meaning in an empty world.
Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb, we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father’s heart? Which of us has not remained prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone? ~Thomas Wolfe
All installments are available for reading here on Docudharma’s Series page, and also here on Docudharma’s Fiction Page, where refuge from politicians, blogging overload, and one BushCo outrage after another can always be found.
“This is the Gateway, Jericho. A dream ended here and a nightmare began. That nightmare still hasn’t ended.”
The Ambassador Hotel ballroom is empty, but fifteen minutes after midnight, on the fifth day of June, 1968, hundreds of people were standing where we’re standing now. They were elated, they were filled with hope. Bobby Kennedy had just won the California primary, he would be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
We walked towards the ballroom exit that led to the kitchen where Bobby was assassinated. “My mother was here that night, Jericho, she was here when Bobby gave his last speech, she was in the crowded kitchen pantry when he walked in after his speech, shook hands with some of the kitchen staff, and headed towards her and several other campaign volunteers.”
Shannon took my hand and we walked into the kitchen pantry. “A security guard, Thane Cesar, was holding Bobby by his right arm when Sirhan lunged towards him, yelled a curse, and fired two shots at him. The loud curse and the first two shots riveted everyone’s attention on Sirhan. Then my mother saw what no one was supposed to see. Cesar let go of Bobby’s arm, dropped into a crouch, pulled his gun, and fired three quick shots. Two hit Bobby under his right armpit and one hit him in the back of the head. At least ten shots were fired by Sirhan and Cesar, five other people were hit.”
A maitre d’ saw us, frowned, came towards us, saw the expression on Shannon’s face, and walked right past us without a word. Shannon didn’t even notice him. “A young immigrant, Juan Romero, who’d come to the City of Angels seeking the American Dream, found horror instead. He held Bobby’s hand as he lay mortally wounded on this dirty kitchen floor, on that night of blood and treachery, in that year of shame and sorrow. Bobby walked into a hail of gunfire, died the next day, and America’s future died with him.”
This isn’t 2003. Not for Shannon. Not today. This is 1968.
“When I was a little girl, the storm of violence raging across America was tearing the country apart. The Vietnam War was killing hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Vietnamese every week. Many times, my mother would turn off the network news and read Bobby’s ‘Menace of Violence’ speech to me. She wanted me to learn it by heart. I did. I still remember every word of it . . .”
young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all,
human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one,
no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain
who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed.
“Bobby was a human being whom other human beings loved and needed. Millions of Americans loved him, he was a man of courage and compassion, they knew he would be a president they could believe in and trust. They needed a president they could believe in and trust. But he was not loved by the CIA, they despised him.”
“The CIA killed him . . . ”
“Of course. They killed his brother, and then they killed him.”
“And got away with it.”
“So far . . . but there will be a day of reckoning, if enough Americans ask what Bobby asked . . .
What has it ever created?
“There will be a day of reckoning, if enough Americans finally get weary of the degradation all around them . . .”
has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children,
whenever we do this, the whole nation is degraded.
Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders
of force, too often we excuse those who are willing to build
their own lives on the shattered dreams of others.
“Ever since that night of blood and horror, Jericho, ever since that year of shame and sorrow, the fabric of life working men and women have tried to weave for themselves and their children has been torn apart by the masters of this country, who swagger and bluster, who build their lives on the shattered dreams of others, who speak of God and patriotism, but know nothing of God or patriotism. Greed is their God, intolerance is their creed, power is their agenda. They teach hate and fear, they always have, they always will, and America keeps reaping what they sow . . .”
when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color
or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that
those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or
your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow
citizens but as enemies – to be met not with cooperation
but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.
“America has degenerated ever since Bobby was assassinated, we have become a nation of fear, division, and intolerance, we have not resisted the corporate masters of this country, we have not confronted those who subjugate us, we have been conditioned to accept the filth conservatives peddle as patriotism . . .”
can remove this sickness from our soul.
“That sickness in America’s soul has not been removed. It has spread. It has infused the contagion of fascism into our institutions of government, into our media, into our courts, into our military, into every level of authority, until only a handful of Americans dare speak out . . .”
chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men.
We learn, at the last, to look at our bothers as aliens,
We learn to share only a common fear, only a
common desire to retreat from each other, only a
common impulse to meet disagreement with force.
Yet we know what we must do.
“We’ve always known what we must do, Jericho. It’s time to start doing it. It’s time to honor Bobby by seeking peace as he did, by seeking justice as he did, by standing up for them like he did. It’s time to dream things that never were, and say why not.”
lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny
ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers
of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep
down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
We walked out of the Ambassador Hotel kitchen pantry, through the ballroom, and out into the sunlight. “We’re Americans, Jericho, it’s time we started behaving like it. America isn’t We the Corporations, it’s not We the Politicians, it’s not We the Pentagon or We the Oil Companies or We the Bush Hacks, it’s We the People.”
in prose or painting or poetry or music; speaking out in homes
and halls, streets and farms, courts and cafes.
and the stillness you hear
will be the gratitude of mankind.