Reprinted from The Nation
"Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black -- considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible -- you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.- Advertisement -
"We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization -- black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.
"For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with -- be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.
Kennedy did not know all the details regarding Dr. King's assassination. The candidate was cautious in some of his language. Yet, he delivered a clear and compelling statement that was credited by many for easing tensions and encouraging a sense of connection and solidarity.
One of the great tests for presidential candidates comes when they must respond to unexpected, difficult, shocking, and sometimes terrifying moments that arise during the course of a campaign. It is certainly reasonable to suggest that such a moment came on Friday, when the news was dominated by reports from Colorado Springs, where a police officer and two others were killed after a gunman opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Today's circumstances are distinct from those of April, 1968. These are different and perhaps more jaded times. Yet, even if we are all too familiar with reports of mass violence, and in particular violence directed toward providers of abortions and reproductive-health services, President Obama was surely right when he said Saturday morning, "We can't let it become normal."
As the six-hour standoff ended in Colorado with the arrest of the alleged shooter, social media were filled with responses to the news of the violence that left nine wounded and renewed concerns about violence directed at clinics. This is an age of instant reaction. And even if there were still many questions that could be asked regarding the motives and actions of the shooter, there were also things that could be said.
Clinton's chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, tweeted Friday evening: "We proudly #StandWithPP of Colorado Springs and the brave law enforcement personnel who fought to protect it." Later, Sanders would issue a statement saying, "While we still do not know the shooter's motive, what is clear is that Planned Parenthood has been the subject of vicious and unsubstantiated statements attacking an organization that provides critical health care for millions of Americans. I strongly support Planned Parenthood and the work it is doing and hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences."
Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, the third Democratic contender, also used the #StandWithPP hashtag when he tweeted Saturday morning: "My thoughts and prayers are with those in Colorado. #StandWithPP."
But what of the Republican contenders who have had so very much to say against Planned Parenthood? Billionaire Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and the rest of the conservative crew that is usually jostling to be first and loudest went suddenly silent Friday night. For the most part, they remained silent into Saturday -- at least with regard to a violent incident that dominated the national news and kitchen-table discussions.
Twenty-four hours after the shooting began in Colorado Springs, the one major Republican contender who commented was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. On Saturday morning, Cruz tweeted: "Praying for the loved ones of those killed, those injured & first responders who bravely got the situation under control in Colorado Springs."
Later on Saturday, Ohio Governor John Kasich tweeted: "Senseless violence has brought tragedy to Colorado Springs. I pray for the families in mourning and have hope our nation can heal."
Aside from Cruz and Kasich, the usually noisy Republicans had very little to say about the Colorado shooting or Planned Parenthood.