Politics. Yes. It’s not one of your traditional Lenten themes, I know. But as I seek out pictures on which to reflect in these meditations, I do run across some old slides that say, “Hold on! This is something.”

In this Lenten season, 2016, we cannot escape the zany circus that is the current political campaign for the highest office in the U.S. Zany, but sad. A sad circus. How many ways can I play with these words? Some call it the “silly season” of campaigning, but now as I write this it is not at all funny. It is scary. Irresponsible. And, damned unchristian.

That is, if the faith is about loving God, and loving neighbor as we love ourselves. Not much love here, neighbor. Jesus taught inclusion. He welcomed. He preached of love for even one’s enemy. And as he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he reminded disciples and soldiers to put down their swords, for “…those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” Or, any weapon, we can safely assume, knowing the Prince of Peace as we say we do.

Rallies have turned violent. Rhetoric is heated, and although historians tell us that political speech has always been less than civil, angry words smother any insightful discussion of issues. Almost everyone I know is weary of debates, town halls, and “breaking news” about candidates.img083.jpg

And there is this: this slide from my college years. Robert F. Kennedy was campaigning for the U. S. Senate, and he came to my hometown to speak. A platform was built in front of a major industrial complex in the heart of the village, and the crowds turned out. Chances are that the crowd was not united in its political views that day. Democrats had much to smile about, of course, but there were many Republicans in the throng, some just to see Bobby Kennedy even as they assured neighbors they’d be voting against him.

I was home from college and got to the front of the crowd with my camera. I have four or five good photos of Bobby Kennedy at the microphone, delivering his passionate stump speech. A short man, he stood on a box; maybe not a real soap box, but a wooden box that gave him another eight inches of stature. I’ve always liked those slides. But this one is the one that grabbed my attention today. RFK has left the podium, moved to the front of the platform, and crouches down, gesturing to someone.

The story I recall is that a young woman had fainted. It was a hot afternoon, there wasn’t much room to breathe in the press of the crowd, and Kennedy noticed the commotion just a few feet from where he was trying to convince us to elect him as one of New York’s senators. Here he is, exhibiting something today’s candidates find difficult to define or  do: caring.

Maybe a cynic would say, “Oh, he’s just trying to win more votes.” But from what I understand, RFK was a loving Dad, and though the whole Kennedy clan suffered from affluence, power, and privilege, I have no doubt that family and faith played significant roles in shaping Robert F. Kennedy’s personal and social and political agendas. That’s why this view of the man is more important to me than the speech-making politician at the podium. His heart went out to that young woman, and he knew the speeches could wait until he was sure she was OK.

I’ll close with two quotations from RFK, as a call to compassion and caring, gentleness of spirit and love in action — a reminder that we can and must do this campaign thing better.

“The great challenge to all Americans—indeed to all free men and women—is to maintain loyalty to truth; to maintain loyalty to free institutions; to maintain loyalty to freedom as a basic human value, and above all else to keep in our hearts and minds the tolerance and mutual trust that have been the genius of American life throughout our history.”

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“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

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