I Have A Nightmare: The Ghosts of 1968

Recent media coverage of the Obama campaign has taken on a new tone. He is now being talked about as if he will actually win the Democratic nomination and go no to face John MCain in November. That shift in tone has raised one very serious concern about Obama that I want to discuss today.

When the media and people in general talk about Barack Obama, they talk about his charisma, his ability to inspire people. That often leads to comparisons with Bobby Kennedy, the Democratic candidate in 1968, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights icon. Until recently, the comparisons were about similiarities in charisma and in the ability to inspire people to action, in other words, very positive things. But there is now a new comparison between Obama and these two political icons.

Both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther Kung, Jr. were assassinated in 1968 by supposed lone gunmen. There are lots of consipiracy rumors around both assiassinations, as there are about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Bobby’s older brother and the sitting President at the time. These conspiracy rumors offer all kinds of explanations for these three killings, but there is a common thread to many of them – J. Edgar Hoover, the former long-time head of the FBI, who, among ihs many less attractive traits, was a racist and did not like the Kennedys, to put it mildly.

Whether these conspiracy theories have any basis in fact is open for discussion. Not here, though. But the fact that J. Edgar Hoover is no longer with us and no longer head of the FBI is relevant to our discussion. Hoover was ruthless and controlled the FBI with an iron hand. Because of his longevity in his position, he had an incredible amount of power. But, thankfully, his successors are not as “talented” as Hoover. In fact, for the most part, they have been and currently are, rather inept. Both in their overt duties as well as in trying to pull off covert activities.

Getting back on the main point of discussion, the discussions of Obama are now raising the ghosts of 1968. The question that no one openly wanted to ask a few months ago is being asked now: Will Obama be assassinated like Bobby or dr. King? And that is a real fear for his supporters, and I suspecy, for his family. Even the government is taking the possibility quite seriously. Senator Obama has been accorded Secret Service protection since last May, although normally that does not happen for a candidate until they are the actual nominee.

The fact that he does have Secret Service protection is somewhat reassuring. But, I believe and correct me if I am wrong, Bobby Kennedy had Secret Service protection when he was assassinated. So. Secret Service protection is a help but not a guarantee. One of the articles I read mentioned that Obama had hired private security prior to getting the Secret Service protection. Hopefully, there are still a few of those around him.

Americans tend to be somewhat self-righteous about violence as a political tool in other countries. They condemn assassinations and act as if that never happens here. How easily we forget our own history. Let me mention a few names to jar oue collective memories: Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and the following US Presidents: John F. Kennedy, William McKinley, James Garfield, and Abraham Lincoln. That is not an admirable track record, is it? We certainly have no right to be smug, that’s for sure.

Do I think Obama will be the target of assassination? I certainly hope mot. I think the conditions are different now than they were in 1963 and 1968/ I think that the security consciousness around Obama is much better than that around Dr. King or Bobby Kennedy. And. although I do believe there are elements in American society that might like the idea, I don’t think any of those elements have the political connections that the assassins in 1963 and 1968 are rumored to have had.

Also, and most important, I think that this country has come a long way in the area of race relations. As the second article points out, Obama’s support is very braod across all the social criteria that usually divides American voters. That bodes well for the future of this campaign, the election and the country as a whole.

Here are the two articles that inspired this post:

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