(photo of Robert Kennedy and Cesar Chavez during Chavez’s 1968 hunger strike)
When I lived in
Some weeks later, I was killing time in that same restaurant, waiting at the end of the evening for the last diners to trickle through. I was standing in the waiter’s station and reading a beautiful and heartbreaking memoir/history written by a labor lawyer in
I approached him while holding his book behind my back and asked him if he was who I thought he was. When he said yes, I said “I’m reading your book right now. It’s wonderful.” He thanked me. He seemed really flattered. I pulled the book out from behind my back and asked him if he wouldn’t mind signing my copy. He said “You weren’t kidding about reading it right now, were you?”
Later, after he had paid his bill, he walked into the bar area where I was watching television while waiting to close down the dining room. I was watching a PBS documentary about Robert Kennedy. He stood next to me and commented that he was taping the show so he could watch it later. I told him that one of my prized possessions is a photo I have of my mother at a rally for Bobby in my home town in
Bobby Kennedy went on to win the
At that moment, the documentary on television turned to Bobby’s assassination in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in
I couldn’t help it. Tears sprang to my eyes. I grabbed a bevnap off the bar and tried to dab them dry as nonchalantly as I could. I could feel him, the author, staring at me, and I turned to look at him and rolled my eyes in an “I’m a dope” kind of way.
He said “Can I have your phone number?”
We saw each other a few times, but there was not really any kind of spark there. I wish, however, I had stayed in touch, because sometimes I really need to talk to someone like him.
Someone who is as sad as I am for what our dreams have become.
Unions have made millions of lives better, but it’s hard to defend the unions that have become as corrupt and as evil as the industries in which they operate. It’s hard to imagine that we are headed for anything other than a union-less future, where workers will be about as protected and well-cared for as the serfs in
When I was growing up, a friend's father was in the UAW, and if he hadn’t been in the union, he would’ve been fired after his first heart attack, and without his job and his insurance, he wouldn’t have survived the second one. He would be dead now, if not for his union. Of that I am sure.
And it’s hard to listen to the stories of those miners trapped in
I dunno. I guess I’m a little depressed this week, listening to the news stories of people in
The slogan for Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign was “These are not ordinary times.”
No, they were not, and as tiresome as our times are now, they are not ordinary either. And just for the record, I do try, I really do, to resist the urge to wonder where we would be if we had chosen our leaders a little more wisely. We can make things better, I think to myself. We can. I don’t know how, though. I just don’t know how. And right now, I’m a little tired of trying.