Jimmy Breslin on the National Mood


There are these sudden loud noises in the hotel kitchen, one, two, three, probably a tray falling, and then there is so much screaming and a hand holding a gun high in the air and Robert Kennedy, who had walked into the gun, is on the floor with his eyes seeing nothing. On this June night in 1968 he has just won a Presidential primary and suddenly he is fit only for a gravedigger’s dirt.

It happens this way when the claws of madness swipe through the sky. In 1919 Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called it for all time, and crashingly so today, when he wrote, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”

And now in New York they are turning an empty lot of the old World Trade Center and a mosque that isn’t built and probably never will be, into national fear. Omaha fights the mosque in Manhattan! Some foamer named Jones says he burns the Koran, and he actually is treated as news. All day on television yesterday you had the aimless babbles of this Beck, who looks like he eats Bibles.

They all come with the double barrels of a Low IQ and High Color Fear let loose on cable stations and e-mail, of which yesterday you read in disbelief.

Let me tell you what a life spent running after news like this has left me remembering. In each case, we had chunks of our Democracy ripped up and leaders lost and the worst rising. Start with Robert Kennedy on the kitchen floor and over him, people tear the gun away from the killer and his body is thrown onto a steam table and I lose my feet and I don’t know how I am here, but I am sitting atop these thrashing legs and there is more screaming to hold his body down. Thrashing those legs won’t help. I’m too heavy to throw off. Now the football player Roosevelt Grier’s arm, bigger than a steam pipe, comes down across the guy’s chest and that is that. Grier says quietly, “He isn’t going anywhere.”

He does not. His name is Sirhan Sirhan. He went to prison. His kind is not gone. When you have so many hoping for tragedy they are right over us waiting for the return of the worst of memories.

Before his night in Los Angeles, I am in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963, and in the days before there were these big inflammatory ads about the evils of President John Kennedy and the lousiness came out of the radios and television, small whispers when matched with what we have today, and Kennedy is in an open car and a shot comes out of the infested sky and he is gone. In the Dallas Police Headquarters at night, police in cowboy hats kept taking this pale white in a checked sports shirt out into the hall for the cameras to take pictures with them holding him, keeping him out there in a crowded hallway as if he were mounted on a target range, which he sure was. On one of these times the crush virtually plastered him into me, the sports shirt touching me, and I claim I can remember the eyes as being insane. I sure can tell you the name: Lee Harvey Oswald.

Then what was it, only a couple of years later, when the skies screamed nameless revenge and hurled James Earl Ray into Memphis to shoot Martin Luther King and that night, when riots broke out everywhere, I sat with Andrew Young in a musty room in Memphis and he talked so quietly about the madness of the air people were breathing. The identical madness that was in Los Angeles where it built another stadium for murder. And all day yesterday, while they squalled and broke out poor Jesus at rallies to help them promote race and baseline dumbness, many could barely wait for September 11th, when they can act as owners of the place where the World Trade Center stood. Look around; they say they are victims but they appear to be just another mob trying to take us apart.
Noted author and journalist Jimmy Breslin’s most recent book is The Good Rat: A True Story, published by Ecco.


The Ukiah blog has been surprisingly interesting and informative until this Breslin thing. Really, really bad. Full of propaganda tropes and big lies. If not an agent of propaganda, then a witless tool of same.


Is it not clear that the Tea Party is a right wing trick to confuse the electorate, that the real issues are money and power? Can politics be humane and rational? No, because on every side it’s about money and power. I have a dream that we can deal with our problems in an open, humane, and rational manner. Can we show this can be done by beginning locally? Scott recently noted that GULP had disappeared. I replied, no, it has exploded all over the area – in an open, humane, and rational manner. Here is the heart of open, human, and rational politics, not in a handful of supervisors and self-serving county administrators.

In the long series of assassinations from that period, both here and abroad, nothing that seemed to have happened in the confusion of the chaotic moment of Robert’s death, which people can be excused for being confused about, has turned out to be as clear as people thought it was. There is significant evidence that Sirhan was a willing dupe, perhaps a victim himself, and that the real assassin had official backing. The same sort of confusion about the facts surrounds the supposed assassins of the brother, MLK, and Malcolm. That was a period that saw wholesale assassinations under the COINTELPRO program of Black Panther leaders and others. This program of assassination of prominent political leaders in the US seems to have stopped, but ask yourself, since that time have we had any real leaders, people WORTH assassinating in public? Perhaps the assassination program was successful. The last really suspicious death was that of Wellstone.

Political assassination remains a central feature of Corporate control (actually gangster control of the corporate system), although less so in the US itself these days. Our government openly and publicly now espouses political assassination (targeted killing for the mass media mesmerized) even of US citizens. It also teaches it out of carefully prepared textbooks in places like the formerly named School of the Americas. It is also consistent with the history of every preceding aggressive imperial power. Imperialism is a system that always works the same way.

I don’t have any elaborate theories about who exactly does these things, it is all very murky, but numerous folks have been picking away at what evidence exist and there are robust theories of these crimes around and easy to access through the internet. I think it is enough to start with the realization that mass media lies about these things routinely and we can’t claim to know, as Breslin implies he does, who exactly was involved and that the official story is the correct one.

Let me reiterate. This was a disgusting story that dishonors the memory of a just man. It is especially upsetting since the jerk was right there when Robert was killed and the last vestige of honest government in the US died with him.

Sorry, that’s the way I see it.